Book Review: Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim - a delightful women's fiction novel set partially in Paris

Book Review: Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim

vanessa yuTitle: Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop

Author: Roselle Lim

Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group

Publication date: August 4, 2020

Genre: General Fiction

Summary: Just like her Aunt Evelyn, Vanessa can see people’s future just by looking at their drink. Believing herself to be cursed, especially since fortune tellers are destined to never marry, she has spent her life suppressing her abilities. Until one prediction rattles her and Evelyn whisks her away to Paris so she can teach her while she opens her new tea shop. Vanessa has never felt more cursed than when she meets charming Marc Santos, who shows her the city and the food. If only she can get her gift under control. Or get rid of it.

The Characters: A Close-Knit Family

I adored the characters. Being also Chinese with plenty of nosy aunts, the characters felt both fun and familiar. They definitely reminded me of my family, with all the good and the annoying. They were fun, enthusiastic, and incredibly protective of each other. I loved how close they were as a family even though it’s really a very massive one. I loved that they were there for each other. It was nice to see Vanessa leaning on her family instead of friends, as is so often seen in books. Her family was both a source of strength and annoyance, but there was so much love.

Vanessa was a fun character. In her late twenties, she’s basically cornered by her mother and aunts as the oldest unmarried cousin. But, with her gift of seeing the future, a match isn’t in the cards for her. I loved how she wanted love so badly she tried to shun her gift. She’s head strong and stubborn. But also meddlesome just like almost all of the women in her family. It was nice to see the family traits come out in her even as she tried to pave her own way. It was fun to see her dedication to getting her way, though it did hurt some of the people around her. But it also showed her strong family ties and the goodness in her heart to try to help those around her.

My favorite character has to be her Aunt Evelyn. She’s so classy and beautiful, and reminded me a lot of two of my own beloved aunts. I loved how self-assured she was, and admired how she was able to keep her secrets close to her heart despite the meddlesome family. There was also an undercurrent of sadness to her throughout the whole novel, one that really struck me in the heart. She seemed so perfectly confident and self-assured that the sadness and stubbornness made her feel real.

The Setting: Paris, With Food

Most of the story takes place in Paris. There were times when I struggled to remember it’s set in Paris, but the bits of French and the restaurants bearing French names always reminded me. There was a general air to it that said Paris, but it was as light as the perfumes Vanessa sniffed. I didn’t feel like I was walking the streets of Paris and enjoying the sights, but I definitely felt like I was eating my way through the city.

The story does hit on some touristy spots like Versaille and some of the art museums, but they’re not a big focus. Instead, most of it was about Vanessa and Marc getting to know each other and enjoying some good food. It was nice to get a peek at some of the iconic sights through the eyes of a tourist and someone who had lived in the city for a few years, but this was a relatively small part of the story.

I don’t think it said “Paris” to me, but I felt the setting was mostly set through food. It was diverse and always sounded delicious. There was so much food talk it might seem off-putting, but it also reminded me of stories my aunts and grandmother used to tell where almost all of them revolved around food. It plays a big role in Chinese families, so it was actually kind of comforting to read so much about food. There’s a lot of love in it, which feels quite fitting in the City of Love.

Even though I struggled with remembering this book mostly takes place in Paris, there was still a nice waft of it floating through the book. It poked in here and there, but I felt it really was more to support the characters and their stories. It was both romantic and beautiful, and really the perfect location.

The Plot: A Love Story

This was a fun, easy read about a woman trying to learn to control a gift she hates while trying to find love in Paris. It moved at a nice pace, feeling more or less organic. There were a few pieces, especially when it came to some of the side romantic stories, that felt a little contrived, but, as a whole, it was a sweet story full of heartache and hope.

I liked the story of Vanessa trying to control her gift, but I also felt it came in second to all the food. Honestly, this felt more like a book about food than anything else. It seemed she was always eating, if not taking a moment here and there to enjoy some piece of art. It was fun reading her predictions and I kind of wish there had been more of them. I really liked the tension her gift caused as she tried so hard to live a normal life and fought against the bounds her aunt laid out for her as a fortune teller.

Overall, though, this felt more like a love story. There’s more than one love story and Vanessa was involved with all of them. But it’s largely the story of two women who know love is out of the question for them no matter how much they long for it. One has accepted it and the other actively fights against it. Paris is the perfect backdrop for it as it felt incredibly romantic and it was impossible to think there couldn’t be a happy ending for anyone.

This was a fun story, easy to read and very sweet. There’s a lot about food and a lot about romance, but it’s also a beautiful story about family and the lengths they will go for the happiness of one of their own.

Overall: All About Family, Food, and Love

The characters were clearly the stars of this book for me. They were fun and familiar to me. The setting was also lovely, though I think it’s more accurate to say I enjoyed “eating” my way through Paris. It all sounded so delicious, and I think I come away from this book thinking more on the food and the romance than about Vanessa’s struggles with her gift. But it was a fun story, a light read with some heavy bits as racism played a role in causing some problems. Still, I really enjoyed this book.

How many cups of tea will you need?

4 cups would be perfect

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for a free e-copy. All opinions expressed are my own.

Drop by the Bookshelf for more reviews or some of my bookish thoughts.

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