I’ve been sitting on this post for a while and today’s finally the day! It’s the release date of THE SECRET OF A HEART NOTE, the third YA novel and first contemporary by Stacey Lee!
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 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 dreams of ditching the hermetic life of an aromateur in favor of high school, free time, and a boy to kiss.
When she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the school soccer star to help fix the situation, she quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice. It’s a calling.
At once, hopeful, funny, and romantic, Stacey Lee’s The Secret of a Heart Note is a richly evocative coming-of-age story that speaks to all of the senses.
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for a review for Her Campus at UC Davis, which you can check out here! And to celebrate the release, I’ve also put together a book playlist. THE SECRET OF A HEART NOTE is full of plants and love and magic, ancient traditions and first love in a contemporary high school setting. I wanted to pick songs that captured that feel: romantic, wistful, and emotionally rich but also light and sweet, with a mix of timeless sounds and more modern, youthful pop. I actually managed to work in a lot of plant motifs! I tried to follow the emotional arc of the novel, but without spoilers:
Somebody Made for Me – Emitt Rhodes
Mimosa and her mom Dahlia are aromateurs who make elixirs that help lonely clients find love. I love this song and think its yearning and hope is perfect for the book. Emitt Rhodes made only a few acclaimed but little-remembered albums back in the ’60s and ’70s, and I have no idea how he isn’t more famous. His self-titled album is worthy of Paul McCartney, in my opinion.
Love Potion No. 9 – The Clovers
One of a few jukebox melodies from the ’50s and ’60s, an era that I associate with yearning teenage love songs, and a classic tale of love magic gone horribly awry.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
Mim’s fierce BFF Kali is both Polynesian and a closeted lesbian, but I also think the song works for Mimosa, who seems destined to follow her foremothers’ footsteps in helping others open their hearts to love while being forbidden from falling in love herself, but can’t help but long for more.
Green Aphrodisiac – Corinne Bailey Rae
The aromateurs’ magic is scent-based, and Mim and her mom make their elixirs from plants in their garden. There are a LOT of descriptions of plants in this book–think Chocolat with smells and botany!
I Won’t Say (I’m in Love) – Hercules soundtrack
I couldn’t resist this one (fittingly enough!) Meg is one of my favorite Disney heroines and this is one of my favorite Disney songs. And it very much fits Mimosa’s predicament, as she can’t help but be drawn to (the very swoon-worthy) Court, even though she’s been warned that falling in love will cause her to lose her powers forever.
You Will Not Take My Heart Alive – Joanna Newsom
I find the title of this song incredibly evocative, and I also chose it because of the sea imagery, which ties into a key moment in the book.
I fancasted Auli’i Carvalho as Mim back in August based on her age and ethnically mixed features, and after seeing Moana I am 100% behind her for acting and personality.
Mama Said – The Shirelles
This book deals so thoughtfully with romantic love, but the relationship between Mimosa and her mother is also extremely important and complex. I thought this track could be nicely repurposed to reflect Mim’s internal struggle between love and being aromateur.
Blueberry Hill – Fats Domino
The chief ‘power’ the aromateurs have is their extraordinary sense of smell, and the book opens with the observation that heartbreak smells like blueberries. With that in mind, I thought this was another retro gem that could be nicely repurposed to add more meaning.
Weeds – Marina and the Diamonds
More plant imagery, but also a reminder that love isn’t so easy to just bury.
Flowers – Leon Bridges
I really like Leon Bridges, whose voice, sound, and style are a throwback to the heyday of ’60s soul. This standout track from Coming Home kinda feels like a modern version of 16th century ‘carpe diem’ poems, right down to the flower imagery (“gather your rosebuds while ye may” and whatnot).
Never Wanted Your Love – She & Him
Mimosa isn’t the only character that this song applies to. There’s one line in particular that I really, really love, but I can’t say much more without spoilers!
Hummingbird Heartbeat – Katy Perry
The clunkiness of the sexual innuendo in these lyrics make me wince (the physical desire and tension in The Secret of a Heart Note is much more subdued–Mim is 15 , a little younger than other YA protagonists–but it is there and it’s way better executed), but I did want one modern pop track on this playlist because of the book’s high school setting, and one of the prizes for the book’s giveaways was a hummingbird necklace!
Definitely check out The Secret of a Heart Note, and happy listening!