3 / 5 Stars; Contemporary Romance, Magical Realism
Vanessa Yu has a gift—or, she would say, a problem. Vanessa can see other people’s futures in tea leaves—or in a coffee, or soda—but she can’t stop the fortunes from coming to her or from telling them. To make matters worse, her propensity to blurt bad news at inconvenient times has made romance impossible for her, and she’s certain her fate is to live alone forever.
When the visions begin to impact her life in disastrous ways, she decides it’s high time she learned to control them—and her mouth.
Vanessa hops on a plane to Paris with her Aunt Evelyn under the guise of helping her aunt open her new tea shop there. Secretly, she begins lessons with her highly-respected, clairvoyant auntie to learn the secret to controlling her prophecies.
In the city of Paris, romance blossoms, old passions flare up, and Vanessa finds herself fighting for her own red thread of fate that will connect her to her future soulmate.
Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop was a delicious read—I wish literally; if it were edible, it would be a delicacy. This novel is sure to be loved by foodies and world travelers alike, because author Roselle Lim treats the reader to a sense-stimulating tour of the decadent architecture, art, and cuisine of France. Lim is a master of detailed, mouth-watering description: whether she is describing the creamy avocado in a piece of sushi, the elegant cut of a French dress, or the design of a fountain peacefully bubbling in a city square, the experience is steeped in vivid, engaging detail. Lim animates the city of Paris until it is its own character that opens its arms wide to Vanessa and promises her adventure, even if the trek only takes her to the corner bakery for a pastry. Each of the human characters, too, are depicted clearly, and the reader has no trouble sympathizing with Vanessa or her crazy aunts.
But the plot doesn’t always hold up; although some mysteries are best left unsolved, there are some events in the novel that seem a little unrealistic or unexplained. How do the letters keep showing up in Aunt Evelyn’s mailbox? Why does Vanessa’s love interest, Marc, really get so many stressful phone calls from work? (I won’t spoil the surprise and tell you what Marc does, but suffice it to say, it’s not a profession for which you would expect someone to be called on their days off). Why do none of the people Vanessa gives fortunes to (you didn’t hear me call them “victims”) ever disbelieve what she says? In this reality, is it common for fortune tellers to be trusted advisors? Also, in this reality, do paintings of butterflies on furniture commonly fly into the air? Do people’s shirt collars really emit steam? The way these types of metaphors are treated in the text causes the reader to wonder whether these devices are really just metaphors, or whether the characters are literally experiencing these magical occurrences.
Whatever way you slice this pie, it’s filled with mystery, mouth-watering description, a likable main character, and real conflict, and it’s simply a delightful read. If I wanted a cozy, relaxing, stimulating read while traveling, I would definitely want to pack this little treat.
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