The Secret of a Heart Note

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
The Secret of a Heart Note Book Poster Image
Captivating, quirky story about a girl who can "smell" love.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Who knew reading about grub lichen, Virginia creeper, and sunflowers could be fun? The joy Mimosa's character takes in her sharing her knowledge of plants and flowers is infectious. A serious storyline in The Secret of a Heart Note involves Court's life-threatening allergy to bees and nuts. Readers are shown what needs to be done if a friend goes into anaphylactic shock.

Positive Messages

Finding your own path in life doesn't mean you're betraying the people who love you.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mimosa's proud of her artsy science nerd side and isn't about to change simply to fit in at school. As the story begins, Mimosa's best friend, Kali, is afraid of what her classmates will think if they find out she's gay, but gathers her courage and decides on a very public coming out.


A few kisses.


A limited number of discreet mentions of products like Doritos and Tylenol.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Stacey Lee's The Secret of a Heart Note is the story of 15-year-old Mimosa and the extraordinary gift she shares with her mother. They are the last in a centuries-old line of aromateurs, women whose hypersensitive sense of smell lets them create elixirs that help people fall in (and out of) love. Unfortunately, family lore holds that if an aromateur falls in love herself, she will lose her gift. This presents a heartrending conflict for Mimosa, who wants to be a normal high school student hanging out with friends, playing sports and most of all, having a boyfriend. A diverse cast of characters (African-American, Asian, Latina, and Samoan) is seamlessly woven into the story. Mimosa's passion for plants and flowers is certain to engage even science-hating readers. This is a coming-of-age romance with no sex, violence, profanity, drinking, smoking or drugs. As with Lee's previous novels, Under a Painted Sky and Outrun the Moon, the female characters are both relatable and empowering.

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What's the story?

In THE SECRET OF A HEART NOTE, Mimosa is torn between living out her family legacy as an aromatuer and discovering her own future. She and her free-spirited single mother have a business creating herbal and flower elixirs for clients in search of romance. The problem is, Mimosa's mother has her working almost full time in the business. Only recently has she allowed her daughter to enroll in high school rather than continue to be homeschooled. Mimosa's thrilled about attending school, but it isn't long before her gift begins to get her into all kinds of trouble. An elixir created to help her algebra teacher woo the school librarian is accidentally taken by the mother of Court, a boy Mimosa really likes. Then, she's blackmailed into brewing an elixir that will make Court fall back in love with his ex-girlfriend. And what if she can't find the recipe she needs to make a fall-out-of-love potion for Court's mother? If this isn't trouble enough, Mimosa thinks she's lost her "nose" after an innocent kiss with Court.  

Is it any good?

This offbeat and engaging coming-of-age novel is an utterly captivating and sometimes zany mixture of romance, fantasy, and the challenges of contemporary teen life. While a plot line built around magical elixirs may seem a bit far fetched, the story is grounded by the smart and relatable character of Mimosa. Readers who are fans of fantasy will love elements like the potion Mimosa sprays on boys to keep them from falling in love with her. Readers looking for a darker story that tackles issues around drugs or teen sex should look elsewhere. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about teens making choices for their future. In The Secret of a Heart Note, Mimosa thinks her family history may well determine her future. Do you ever feel that your family has dreams and expectations for you that are different from your own?

  • Mimosa's world revolves around plants, flowers, and nature. How difficult would it be for you to find a balance between your indoor digital life and spending time in outdoor activities?

  • Mimosa's best friend Kali finally comes to out to the entire school. Are LGBT students at your school "out," or is there pressure for them to say silent?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance and fantasy

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