HNS Book Review: The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee


Title: The Secret of a Heart Note
Author: Stacey Lee
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 384
Year:  2016
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon l B&N l The Book Depository l Goodreads


An evocative novel about a teen aroma expert who uses her extrasensitive sense of smell to mix perfumes that help others fall in love while protecting her own heart at all costs.

Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking—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 experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make.

At once hopeful, funny, and romantic, Stacey Lee’s The Secret of a Heart Note is a richly evocative coming-of-age story that gives a fresh perspective on falling in love and finding one’s place in the world.

Reviewer’s Thoughts:

The Secret of a Heart Note is everything I wanted in a book. It’s the perfect read for To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before fans.  

It’s incredibly difficult to find a light book about people of color, where we experience racism, but it’s not the entire plot of the novel. I’m not discrediting stories that feature our struggles, but sometimes you just want to unwind, and read something that doesn’t show the hard truths of our lives. That’s rightfully justified. Reading stories with characters of color and seeing them fall in love, be happy, be successful is such a beautiful experience. It’s a protest to this publishing industry that continues to support harmful books. I want a variety of representation, most especially uplifting stories. The Secret of a Heart Note perfectly captured the essence that I’m looking for. 

The story follows Mimosa, who is one of the two remaining aromateurs in this world. Aromatuers have an impressive sense of smell that they use to create elixirs for the betterment of society. Their livelihood aims to help people open their eyes to the possibility of love. But like most traditional families, they have a filial duty, and rules to abide by. Aromateurs are forbidden to fall in love, for it would rob them of their ability of smell.

When Mimosa grabbed the chance to attend a regular high school, she finds herself getting in tangled in a web of precarious situations. She accidentally gave an elixir to a heartbroken mother, who happened to be the mother of the school’s soccer star, who might or might not like her.

The Secret of a Heart Note immediately hooked me in. I love the swirling details, and the unique story-telling technique.

My heart does a backflip, and a dozen different scents bursts from me, the sugar maple of happiness, the chicory of regret, and more rambling sunflower, a plant notable for its tendency to change directions several times during the day.

How many books have you read that employ the aroma of flowers, and Mother Nature as a writing style? Nothing came to mind. The lovely descriptions evoke a sense of belonging and uniqueness. I find it eerily comforting. It reminds me of my Lola’s ancestral house.

The mother-daughter relationship of the protagonist, Mimosa and Dahlia resonate with me more. The story tackles family expectation and the burden that comes along with it. In addition to their dynamics, Lee also made a point to establish the family history of aromatuers. The supporting characters’ family woes are included in the plot as well.

The friendship is so heartwarming. It showcases high school’s meanness. How being different than your peers will make you a target. The only valid concern I have is there’s a token mean girl. That’s it, but as I said there’s also supportive friends. 

The romance is so cute. It’s one of my favorite things about it. Truthfully, I get giddy whenever I read a love interest that isn’t a stereotyped asshole. I love the awkward fumbling sincerity of it. 

This book is made for YA contemporary readers.  We have unconventional gripping writing, well-crafted characters, family and friends dynamics, and a love story that would make you dizzy. If you’re looking for a YA book with an exceptional plot, that is fun and heartwarming. I hope you’d consider picking The Secret of a Heart Note. The recipe for this story is enticing. You won’t regret it.

Review also posted at Goodreads.