“Do they look like they’re about to vomit? They’re in love.” — Reseda, Aromateur, 1724 (155)
Hellooooo everyone! This is going to be a nonspoilery book chat for Stacey Lee’s novel The Secret of a Heart Note, in which we shall discuss the many meaningful and (heart)noteworthy aspects of the book!
Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. The light-hearted and funny plot of the novel balanced well with the deeper concepts and themes, which was definitely something I was seeking out to read after my classics burnout last week.
The Secret of a Heart Note follows Mimosa, one of the remaining two aromateurs of the world (if you include her mom). She’s helped her mother with creating elixirs to help people fall in love with the right person her entire childhood, and she will do so for her entire life, as it was predestined for her being born an aromateur.
However, Mimosa is now sixteen and eager to explore the world outside her garden. She manages to convince her mom to let her attend regular high school instead of being homeschooled, but when she accidentally gives one of her love elixirs to the wrong person and causes the person to fall in love with her client, Mimosa finds herself in a very complicated, multi-layered web of love-related chaos that she somehow needs to fix without letting her mom find out.
Oh, and there’s Court, the guy who gets stabbed with an EpiPen by page 24. 😅
One of the main aspects of this novel that sets it apart from other books is Stacey Lee’s ability to give such detailed descriptions of smells.
You know what a lie smells like for aromateurs, right?
A lie smells like pewter and sour grass with stale yellow undertones, rather like a sweaty palm that has been clutching dirty coins. (6)
That description of a lie is very precise, and I would have never thought to use the description of “a sweaty palm that has been clutching dirty coins” to elaborate on the smell of something. A sweaty hand holding dirty coins has a very distinct, coppery, unpleasant smell to it, which most people can imagine if not pull up in their mind.
Lee could have easily and simply said that a lie smells coppery and unpleasant, but she didn’t — she used much more creative and unique language to vividly waft these scents in front of reader’s noses, right off the page. I mean, for someone whose nose’s only function is to be clogged all year round by allergies, it was a very enjoyable experience being able to mentally “smell” all the scents Mimosa identified throughout the novel. 👍
Another interesting aspect of the book was the blend of reality and fantasy in the setting. I would say this is a contemporary book made unique by the fact that aromateurs and their love elixirs exist cohesively in their society, which adds a dose of magical realism.
Every few years, some journalist writes about us, giving logical explanations for our singular sniffers, like the journalist in Scientific American, who said our genes hail from the Paleozoic era when humans still walked on all fours. (15)
When I first started to read The Secret of a Heart Note, I was very confused as to how Mimosa and her mother fit into their society. Did they make their love elixirs in secret? If so, then why do they have clients? Do they pick their clients and swear them to secrecy?
As the story continued, though, Mimosa explains that aromateurs are actually well-known in their society, and that not everyone believes their smelling skills are real. Mimosa has to deal with many of her classmates avoiding her at school because of the misconception that she can “bewitch” them as a supposed “love witch.”
Which brings me to my next point…
Should there be aromateurs in this world?
Very early in the book, Mimosa clarifies that she, as an aromateur, cannot force anyone to fall in love with another person.
Clients come to us when they’ve tried everything to woo the target but can’t get the fire going, whether due to shyness, insecurity, or even prejudice. (9)
However, even then, I still got a little bit suspicious of their love business. Yet, people come to Mimosa and her mother if they aren’t successful at getting someone they really like to love them back, but if they can’t get the other person to love them… then doesn’t that mean they weren’t meant for each other anyways?
Personally, I felt like Mimosa and her mother’s job as aromateurs isn’t as huge and important as they made it seem like during the novel. Even Mimosa’s mother mentioned how they couldn’t control love, and the chaos that Mimosa made by giving a client’s love elixir to the wrong person goes to prove how one shouldn’t mess with the natural way love flows and finds people.
I’m starting to think that Stacey Lee created this entire story and made Mimosa’s character arc as it is in the book to show how uncontrollable love is, even by people like aromateurs, whose main purpose in life is to “guide” love towards the right people.
In the end, yes, aromateurs were fun to read about, but I’d prefer they stay confined in ink words on paper rather than exist in real life. 😊
My favorite theme of this book would have to be the mother-daughter bond that Mimosa and her mother share. For the majority of her novel, Mimosa feels annoyed with her mother for always bringing Mimosa back to her job as an aromateur whenever she wants to try something else. Despite the fact that Mimosa loves being an aromateur, she realizes that she’s never really had a choice regarding what she wants to do with her life: being an aromateur has been her only option.
I won’t go into any details to avoid spoilers, but I loved the attention Lee put on developing Mimosa and her mother’s relationship with each other slowly but oh so effectively throughout the novel. Their mother-daughter love created a nice balance with the other love Mimosa was mianly focused on throughout the book, suggesting that the strongest love in the world might not necessarily be romantic love. Sometimes, like Mimosa, we need to be reminded how strong and never-ending a mother’s — or any parent’s — love can be.
It’s been a while since I read a book where the mother of the main character was very prevalent in the novel, and I hope Stacey Lee’s Outrun the Moon will have the same strong mother-daughter relationship aspect in it. 😊
And lastly, the aspect of the book that transcends the amazingness of all other aspects: Court and his EpiPen.
I just can’t get over the fact that this is the first book I’ve read where a character actually had to use their EpiPen within the novel. Not only that, but Court’s allergy and EpiPen plays a crucial role in the plot of the story. Usually, when a character has an allergy, it’s a side thing — just another trait that makes the character unique. However, Court’s allergy to bee stings and his use of his EpiPen gives people an honest insight into how utterly annoying it is to have a severe allergy.
I mean, just look at Court! He carries his EpiPen around with him all the time, and learns the hard way that the few times he doesn’t… well, I guess you can find out by reading the book. 😏
A huge round of applause for Stacey Lee and her addition of Court’s character and EpiPens in The Secret of a Heart Note!!!😆👏🎉
If you’ve read The Secret of a Heart Note, tell me your thoughts on the book! Do you agree that Court having an EpiPen is the most amazing thing ever? If you haven’t read this novel yet and are in the mood for a fun, contemporary Bildungsroman of an aromateur, then definitely pick up Stacey Lee’s novel. 👍
To wrap up this book chat, here is a random — but hilarious — quote from The Secret of a Heart Note:
Ruth Meyer was the only daughter of a toothpick manufacturer, who believed that the souls of all the trees her father felled were conspiring to kill her. (145)
Thanks for reading, and I will cya next time!