- Title: Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop
- Author: Roselle Lim
- Publisher: Berkeley
- Release Date: 8/4/20
- Genre: Magical Realism
- Age Range: Adult
- Rating: ★★★★
- Publisher’s Summary: Vanessa Yu never wanted to see people’s fortunes — or misfortunes — in tea leaves. Ever since she can remember, Vanessa Yu has been able to see people’s fortunes at the bottom of their teacups. To avoid blurting out their fortunes, she converts to coffee, but somehow fortunes escape and find a way to complicate her life and the ones of those around her. To add to this plight, her romance life is so nonexistent that her parents enlist the services of a matchmaking expert from Shanghai. The day before her matchmaking appointment, Vanessa accidentally sees her own fate: death by traffic accident. She decides that she can’t truly live until she can find a way to get rid of her uncanny abilities. When her eccentric aunt, Evelyn, shows up with a tempting offer to whisk her away, Vanessa says au revoir to America and bonjour to Paris. While working at Evelyn’s tea stall at a Parisian antique market, Vanessa performs some matchmaking of her own, attempting to help reconnect her aunt with a lost love. As she learns more about herself and the root of her gifts, she realizes one thing to be true: knowing one’s destiny isn’t a curse, but being unable to change it is.
If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I love Paris. I was immediately intrigued by Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop’s title, cover, and synopsis, and it certainly did not disappoint.
I have never read a magical realism book before, and I was curious how the book would incorporate Vanessa and her aunt’s magical powers into a story about a world that otherwise is realistic. It was amazing to me how easily I was able to suspend disbelief and accept the fortune telling as real.
Vanessa also has a very compelling character arc. She starts, understandably, struggling with her powers and resenting them. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to have to tell your father that his friend is going to get sick and die. I wanted Vanessa to learn from Evelyn how to control her powers, and I remained engaged as Vanessa’s relationship to her predictions changes.
It made me sad to read that both Evelyn and Vanessa feel that their powers made it impossible for them to form romatic attachments. When Vanessa met Marc, a French Canadian pastry chef and Evelyn encountered an old flame, I was rooting for them to make the connections they both seemed to long for.
Vanessa and Evelyn’s relationship is a very compelling element throughout the book. Like many family members, they have commonalities, but they also argue and disagree throughout the book in a way that only family members can. I loved watching their relationship grow and deepen.
Vanessa is from Palo Alto, California like me, and it was fun to hear her mention some of my hometown landmarks like the Stanford Theater and Mitchell Park in the section of the book before she goes to Paris.
As a Francophile, I also loved reading about Vanessa’s culinary adventures through Paris. Lim’s vivid descriptions of mille-feuilles and macarons made me feel transported to a Parisian patisserie.
The reds and pinks of the fruit contrasted against the golden laters of paper-thin pastry and the vanilla buttercream. I sank my fork into the treat. The scent of spun sugar hovered in the air.
I could practically taste everything Vanessa eats, and it certainly made me hungry.
Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop is a romantic and whimsical read that is perfect for Valentine’s Day.
Food Pairing: Macarons
I picked up some heart shaped macarons from Trader Joe’s, and I thought they would be a perfect pairing with this book. I certainly wanted to eat some French patisserie as I was listening to it. This is especially true because of how much Vanessa loves food and how detailed the descriptions of food are in the book.
There are two different flavors in the package: raspberry and vanilla, and they complemented each other perfectly. Both the raspberry and vanilla came through without being too overpowering. The sugar on the outside of the vanilla macarons added a nice texture as well.
They also felt like exactly the right Valentine’s treat. They were light and not too sweet with the harder shell and chewy inside that you would expect from a typical Parisian treat.
Grab a macron and some tea and pick up Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop.