Title: Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop
Author: Roselle Lim
Publication Date: August 4th, 2020
Genre: Romance, contemporary
Age Range: Adult
Content warnings: Near death experience, (predictions of) death, gambling addiction, mentions of illness
Synopsis: 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.
After her matchmaking appointment, Vanessa sees death for the first time. 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.
Where can I find an Aunt Evelyn to whisk me away to Paris, fund my new wardrobe, and guide me in the art of fortune-telling? Asking for a friend, obviously…
My family’s legacy is our former restaurants and continued dedication to finding/making/eating (mostly eating) really good food, so the Yu family shared trait of being foodies was something I enjoyed immensely. Roselle Lim’s writing is incredibly lush and descriptive, with a dedicated focus on taste that had my mouth watering the whole time I was reading. I definitely recommend having lots of snacks handy if you pick up Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop, because you’re going to need them!
One of my favorite things about Vanessa Yu is how connected our main character is with her family. While the book is marketed as a romance, the real love that’s explored is that between Vanessa and all of her relatives. They are knee-deep in each other’s lives, and the Yus are a constant in Vanessa’s life even as she travels from Palo Alto to Paris. As much as her meddling, matchmaking aunties might embarrass or hassle Vanessa and the rest of her cousins, you can tell that it’s from a deep sense of caring and community. If I’m being honest, I was reminded of my mom’s side of the family multiple times while reading, which only made me love the book that much more.
Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop is undeniably and beautifully whimsical, and was the perfect pick-me-up as I was coming off some pretty angsty books (Unravel the Dusk and These Violent Delights, I’m lookin’ at you…). The book is a great mix of lighthearted banter and teasing between family, and the emotional, mental, and even physical burdens that Vanessa faces along with her gift of predicting the future. There was no shortage of tense moments between Vanessa and her Aunt Evelyn as the two clashed on their philosophies about what their lives as clairvoyants could entail, and I loved that extra layer of complicated family dynamics, where two people can be so similar and so different simultaneously, but underneath the fraught emotions and angry words, you know there’s a steady foundation of unconditional love supporting their relationship.
When it comes to fate, it’s easy to get swept up in the idea that our destinies are not ours to shape. Even as Evelyn guides Vanessa in fortune-telling and is quick to correct Vanessa’s victimizing view of herself and her gift, Vanessa teaches Evelyn lessons in return. Gifts like theirs can be lonely, and while Evelyn has long since accepted the rules and limitations that come along with clairvoyance, Vanessa refuses to settle. I loved the fact that throughout the book, Vanessa is determined to live life on her own terms, and chases the happy ending she knows she deserves, but she’s not exempt from making mistakes and hurting those around her because of her ideals.
Despite the fact that I lack any sort of magical ability and am unfortunately not eating my way through a beautiful city like Paris, I found something so relatable in the way that Vanessa had to stop and consider why she’s able to have such strong ideals that starkly contrast those of her aunt’s, and then reconcile the ways in which her family’s sacrifices are what have given her the opportunities to develop her beliefs. Overall, Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop was a cute, wanderlust-inspiring read that had me wondering what I should eat next!
And if you’re in baking mode right now and want to make some snacks of your own to devour while you read this book, here’s the link to one of my favorite scone recipes!
About the Author
Roselle Lim was born in the Philippines and immigrated to Canada as a child. She lived in north Scarborough in a diverse, Asian neighbourhood.
She found her love of writing by listening to her lola (paternal grandmother’s) stories about Filipino folktales. Growing up in a household where Chinese superstition mingled with Filipino Catholicism, she devoured books about mythology, which shaped the fantasies in her novels.
An artist by nature, she considers writing as “painting with words.”
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