The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee


I had the privilege of winning this book through the author’s giveaway! Many thanks to the publisher for providing an advanced readers copy. 

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.

Have you ever felt that pure sense of contentment after finishing a book? That’s how I felt after reading The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee. What a lovely, lovely book.

In The Secret of a Heart Note, we see the extraordinary, unique, and magical life of being an aromateur. Paired with Lee’s splendid writing, Mim’s perspective was enjoyable and utterly unique. I loved learning about Mim’s world of being an aromateur, her struggles, and her way of life. The narrative evokes the olfactory senses with a variety of scents and smells intertwining with the storytelling. What I loved was that Lee used simple smells that readers are likely to be familiar with – blueberries, burned tires, and plums – rather than obscure smells (I can never imagine the smell of ‘sandalwood’!), making it easier to imagine and connect to the writing.

The characters in this story were delightful. Beginning with Mim, a lovely but lonely protagonist who does her absolute best despite her setbacks; Mim’s friend Kali, a force of her own, Samoan, brave, and true; Court, Mim’s kind, sweet love interest; and of course, Mim’s mother, Dahli, strict, tough, but absolutely loving. Though all characters were different from each other, I enjoyed their characterizations, their stories, and watching them develop as the story unfolded. More so, each character had their quirks, and the amazingly written interactions between the characters captured the realistic highs and lows that come with friendship and family. The Secret of a Heart Note also has a diversity of positive representation, which was refreshing and delightful to read.

At its gooey centre though, The Secret of a Heart Note is ultimately about love. Among its themes are familial love, friendship and the love between two friends, romantic love, and also the very nature of love. As aromateurs, Mim and her mother help people fall in love and find happiness. But, the book asks: What does it take to fall in love? Can love and falling in love be influenced, shaped, moulded? The story offers a fresh angle on these questions and accentuates the small things about love – its joys, its mysteries, and its moments of heartache.

A true highlight of the book was the complicated and dynamic relationship between Mim and her mother that was beautifully developed. While Mim struggles with the expectations of being the aromateur that her mother expects her to be, her mother’s high and inexpressible hope for Mim burdens them both. What I loved was that there was berth for imperfection in their relationship; not only was it realistic, but it was well-written and portrayed in a genuine and honest way.

I also loved the tentative friendship between Mim and Kali. Though their friendship isn’t intimate or very close, there’s a tenderness there when the two interact and I loved it. Their friendship depicts a friendship we don’t often seen in YA – a friendship that is special, where they do right by each other, but without the closeness common in YA. It was realistic, refreshing, and a little bittersweet.

The Secret of a Heart Note is a heartfelt story about the eccentricities and mysteries of love and falling in love. It is an exceptional coming-of-age. It explores a bit about family, a bit about friendship, and a bit about destiny. Recommended for those who want a heartfelt and light read, The Secret of a Heart Note is a gorgeous, gorgeous story filled with the sweet, bittersweet, and beautiful scents of life.

Rating: 4/5

Book Information
Book Name: The Secret of a Heart Note
Author: Stacey Lee
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Paperback

The Secret of a Heart Note in:
Goodreads | Book Depository | My review on Goodreads

Happy Book Birthday to Stacey Lee and The Secret of a Heart Note! I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did. 😊

  • Are you going to read The Secret of a Heart Note? Did you preorder it?
  • If you’ve already read it, what did you think?
  • Does your sense of smell get activated when you read? What are some of your favourite bookish smells – if that makes sense?!

21 thoughts on “The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee

    • Hi Emily!
      It definitely is a good book to start with! After reading The Secret of a Heart Note, I picked up Under a Painted Sky and it’s awesome so far.

      HAHA right? I don’t even know what sandalwood smells like so whenever that scent is referenced in-text, I just gloss over it.

  1. I pre-ordered my copy and it’s not going to arrive until tomorrow. :'(
    As far as smells go I feel like it’s one of my weakest senses, I only really notice smells when it’s food, LOL. Or if there’s some smell that has a particularly strong memory associated with it, like the smell of my junior high school…I’m definitely more of a visual person, which isn’t surprising since I’m a visual artist. I’m really good at filtering out extraneous sensory stimuli and focusing on what’s in front of my eyes when I’m reading, writing, or drawing, so that’s probably why I don’t notice smells (or sounds) as much.
    Oh wait, I just remembered that I really like the smell of books themselves. Old book smell, new book smell, they’re both comforting to me. :D

    • Hi Shenwei!
      Ooh, my reply comes late but I hope it’s already arrived and that you’re enjoying it/will enjoy it soon!

      ME TOO! If you ask me to imagine food smells, I definitely can, but flowers and wood and spices – meh. XD
      I’m a more visual person too! I learn visually and absorb information easier that way.

      Book smells!! ❤ Totally agree with you there!

  2. First of all, your art is STUNNING. I love it so, so much <3
    Second of all, I am so, so happy to hear you enjoyed this book so much, and that it's relatable. I added it to my TBR a little bit ago, and I felt a bit nervous aboutit, because just like you, I can't always really "imagine" the smells that some authors put into their stories, such as sandalwood. I'm glad you could imagine these ones. Can't wait to read this :)

  3. Ooh, great review! I’ve had my eye on this one for a while. It sounds like the sort of contemporary I gravitate towards! Your review has definitely convinced me to pick it up. (Totally agree with you about the scent thing, by the way!)

    • Hi Madalyn!
      Thanks so much! The Secret of a Heart Note is a lovely book, so I hope you’ll enjoy it if you read it! ❤
      (Haha right?! But I promise how scent is handled and incorporated into the narrative is done wonderfully!)

  4. This artwork is so perfect! I also absolutely adore the sound of this book, I used to be super into indie perfume and oils so I think this will be a nice bit of nostalgia for me hehe. I also have a secret weakness for stories that feature the weight of parental expectations, so this one sounds like a keeper. Thanks for sharing your thoughts <3

  5. This sounds so adorable.

    I actually don’t think about scents much when I’m reading. The question mostly makes me think of creative writing classes I took at university where they BEGGED us to use any senses other than just sight all the time. Despite all that, sense of smell still isn’t something I really consider in my books, so a story where scent is central sounds interesting to me.

    • Hi Lydia!

      It is! I hope you read it, and if you do, that you enjoy it. ❤ I’m not big on my sense of smell, so reading this was surprisingly nice and easy. The scents aren’t too complex or obscure too, so I found it easier to imagine — more so, I tried really hard to imagine the smells rather than gloss over them, which kinda helped (I think?)!

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