I was swept away by Roselle Lim’s debut novel ‘Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune‘. It was sweet, adorable, full of magic and delicious recipes that could give you love, tenderness, or courage, depending on what you need the most in your life. Her second novel, Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris tea shop is as exquisite as Natalie Tan.
I must say I didn’t get into the book straightaway. Vanessa seemed so withdrawn and passive, almost invisible in her loud, well-meaning, but interfering family. She has a special gift of giving prophecies, but unlike her Aunt Evelyn who is a master clairvoyant, proud of being able to help people with her unusual ability to see their future, Vanessa is terrified of burdening the others with her visions of doom and gloom. Once I heard the prophecy Vanessa was trying unsuccessfully to hold back and repress at her cousin’s wedding, I could see why Vanessa saw her gift as a curse. I also reconnected with Roselle Lim’s beautiful writing once more. The way the prophecies arrive to Vanessa… you just have to read and experience it yourself, but it is absolutely unique and magic!
Vanessa’s perpetual singledom and inability to go past a first date with any prospective romantic partner upsets and worries Vanessa’s numerous aunts (she has thirteen of them) to the extent of staging an intervention in the form of inviting a famous matchmaker from China. Madame Fong confirms something Vanessa already knew. Everybody has a match somewhere, a person they are tied to by a red thread of romantic love. Clairvoyants don’t and this is the price of their gift. Vanessa never wanted to be a fortune-teller, there’s nothing she would want more than not to have it or at least to be able to control where and when she blurts out her prophecies. If there is a person who can help her, it is her Aunt Evelyn who is about to open a tea shop in the center of Paris. Three weeks in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, full of art, history and best food possible and an opportunity to have lessons on how to control her unruly gift.
Vanessa throws herself into experiencing Paris with all her senses: art, architecture, romance, and food, oh Roselle Lim’s mouth-watering descriptions of food are the best I’ve ever read. Did I mention romance? Vanessa meets her special stranger, but there is a catch: her aunt Evelyn already predicted that Vanessa will have but a few days with her lovely Marc. Would you get into a relationship with an expiry date? Would you allow yourself fall in love knowing you your heart will be broken? Vanessa wants what she has been denied by the virtue of being born with her special talent, she wants to defy fate, she wants love:
‘Despite spilling others’ fortunes, I refused to believe fate dictated my life. I believed in revolt, in breaking away from what was imposed upon me, and my fundamental rejection of my power proved that I rejected destiny too.’
‘The future was ours to shape’.
What does it mean to be true to yourself? Vanessa’s aunt Evelyn has always followed fortune-telling rules to the letter and sacrificed her romantic relationship to be with her family. Vanessa has been working in her family accounting business for years, she has been nothing but a dutiful daughter and niece. Her gift is also something she owes to her family. With her identity being so strongly linked to her family and her place in it, even if she manages to get rid of her curse, where will it leave her?
To my delight, Vanessa manages to discover her own way of helping people and there is a happily ever after for her. This book delivers fully on its promise to take the reader on a magic adventure of self-discovery in one of the most romantic cities on the world. Can’t wait to meet Roselle Lim’s next protagonist and be spell-bound by their story.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Berkley for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.