Also by this author: Outrun the Moon
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on December 27th 2016
Pages: 384 •Goodreads
Love chose me, and I tried, but I couldn’t stop the arrow in its flight.
As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, fifteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of using her extraordinary sense of smell to mix base notes, top notes, and heart notes into elixirs that help others fall in love.
All while remaining incurably alone.
For Mim, the rules are clear—falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school existence—taking up a sport and limping away flush from victory, joining the debate club and saying things like “That’s a logical fallacy!” Having a boyfriend.
When she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the school soccer star to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that when it comes to falling in love, the choice isn’t always hers to make.
Many thanks to the wonderful Lauren @ Bookmark Lit for this book!
Stacey Lee has built herself a reputation of writing strong YA female protagonists with very distinct personalities, and The Secret of a Heart Note is no exception. The story follows Mimosa, one of the last living aromateurs, and her mother as they mix elixirs to help their clients win the affections of their crushes. The entire novel has a bit of a magical realism feel, with the beautiful and wild garden Mimosa and her mother cultivate, their rambling cottage they live in, and their seemingly magical sense of smell and affinity with nature (although their ability to smell is somewhat explained by science if I’m remembering correctly). Though Mimosa and her mother have lived in relative seclusion their whole lives aside from the contact they have with clients through their business, the premise of the novel begins with Mimosa attending public school as she strives to have a somewhat normal life and have some typical teenage experiences.
Though Mimosa’s desire to form independence and get away from the stifling plans for the future that her mother has for her (a problem faced by many, non-aromatuer teenagers) I found that the high-school centered aspects of the plot were what I struggled with the most. I found that it took a while to hit my stride with this novel and my attention drifted whenever the scenes would shift from Mim’s aromatuer world to that of high school (and this is most likely a personal problem as the farther away I get from being in high school age wise, the lower level of tolerance I have for reading about it). While Mim’s social interactions at school present some great and diverse characters (her Samoan best friend, the star athlete who is actually a respectful gentleman, characters struggling with their sexual identities, etc.) I found the antagonist, “mean girl” character to be disappointingly flat in terms of motive and character development (I really, really want YA to move away from girl-on-girl hate as a theme, especially if it’s over a guy).
What’s truly captivating about this novel is the thought and detail that Stacey Lee put into the creation of smells that emotions and actions evoke to Mim’s sensitive nose, and her consistency with using them (anger smelling like burnt tires, nervousness smelling like soap bubbles…aren’t the smell descriptions just too perfect?!) Give me a book about the history of the aromatuers that Mim is descended from and I will be all over it! Seriously, this book will make you want to go to your local botanical garden, STAT, and strain your own olfactory senses to see if there’s even a hint of the power of Mim’s nose in your own.
While I wish I had been more excited throughout the course of reading this novel, I found the last 25% or so to pick up when Mim’s mysterious Aunt Byrony begins to be focused on more. Perhaps I’m biased because I have a really awesome aunt myself, but she brings some much needed perspective to the whole novel (though I won’t say any more in fear of spoilers!) Just know that Stacey Lee’s talents definitely extend into writing some creative and whimsical family dynamics.
Overall: The Secret of a Heart Note was a story built upon so much creativity and whimsy, which I wish had been explored more in depth instead of the contemporary side of the novel. However, Stacey Lee has another winning protagonist with Mim (so earnest and bright and adorable without being your typical quirky clicheé) and her scent descriptions are so imaginative and yet on point at the same time. One of my favorite fellow bloggers, Alexa @ Alexa Loves Books, compared to The Secret of a Heart Note having the feel of a romantic comedy, and she couldn’t be more right!
I totally agree! The high school stuff was my least favorite and the mean girl trope needs to GO AWAY FOREVER. I’m so sick of reading it. All of the scent-related things and the fun towards the end of the book made it worth it for me. Her aunt.. so good! I didn’t see (some of) it coming. My attention drifted a lot until I got to the ending.
Yes once her aunt showed up the book got much more interesting for me (I wish we could have learned more about their family history of aromatuers). It really could be just me though being less and less engaged with high school settings….
This sounds like a sweet, cute read. I’m definitely curious to see how the story plays out and since you mentioned it was creative, I’m even more looking forward to reading this one. Great review!
Thank you Kelly! Have you had a chance to read anything by Stacey Lee yet?
I haven’t had a chance to read any of her other books yet, no, but I see everyone talking about how good this one is, so I’m definitely intrigued!
I keep hearing so many good things about Stacey Lee! And it’s such a cool idea. Although I am so sick of the bitchy girl antagonist. I’m rereading Princess Diaries at the moment, and even though there’s the typical cheerleader bitchy girl (ugh), she eventually becomes friends with Mia so I guess that’s nice.
BUT STILL. I want to read this.
Oh Lana. She was definitely a mean girl in The Princess Diaries but I take that series to be a bit satirical so I feel like Lana’s character works if that makes sense? She also has more of an arc than most mean girl antagonists do. Are you planning on rereading the entire series?
I’m so glad you agree that this book read like a really fun romantic comedy! I didn’t particularly love all the high school bits either, but I was definitely in love with the aromateur aspects for sure. So glad you enjoyed this book for the most part!
Yes I wish we could have an entire book just filled with aromateur history 🙂
I can’t believe I’ve only read ONE Stacey Lee novel so far. Everything she writes sounds like they would appeal to me. This sounds quite lovely. I don’t have a particularly keen sense of smell, so the premise of this is so intriguing. I’m with you though – I’m tired of the girl-on-girl hate in novels too. But anyway, I need to read this soon! Great review, Cristina!
Thank you, Cilla! What Stacey Lee book have you read?
I’ve read Under a Painted Sky! I’m thinking of buying Outrun the Moon, or at least requesting it at the library, as I’ve heard good things about that one.
I’m sorry this lacked the depth to make it a standout out, but glad you enjoyed it for the most part. It does sound lovely, and I’ve been looking forward to it, and it’s great to hear it’s richly diverse. I don’t have a great run with historical fic, so I was glad when I heard Stacey’s latest was a contemporary. I’m interested to read because it sounds unique…and I also look forward to viewing the cover up close. Can’t deny it’s not gorgeous!
The book was definitely unique and I’m really glad I read it! Have you had a chance to read anything else by Stacey yet?