Sweetbitter meets The Devil Wears Prada in this riveting and provocative novel set in the trendy Chicago restaurant scene.
That’s what readers are calling Emily Belden’s new novel, HOT MESS (GraydonHouse)! You’re going to want to dive in head first into this book.
Twenty-something, Allie Simon is a “hot mess.” She’s never one full-blown into a relationship, which was definitely not right for her. never imagined she’d fall for a recovering drug addict—but that was before she met Benji Zane, Chicago’s hottest up-and-coming chef, who’s known as much for his hard partying ways as for his unparalleled culinary skills.
Six months into their relationship, the food and chemistry are out of this world, but the reality of living with a cooking wunderkind hasn’t exactly been all hearts and flowers. Still, Allie’s convinced that her love is the key to fixing this talented man’s broken soul—so when Benji is offered his dream job as chef de cuisinefor a new restaurant opening on Randolph Street, Chicago’s foodie hot spot, Allie agrees to invest her life savings in his future.
But less than a month after she goes all in, Allie learns a heartbreaking lesson: addicts lie. Benji cracks under the pressure, relapses and disappears, bagging out not only on the restaurant, but on her, too. Left with nothing but a massive withdrawal slip and a restaurant that absolutely must open in a matter of weeks, Allie finds herself thrust into a world of luxury and greed, cutthroat business and sensory delight. Lost in the mess of it all, she can either crumble completely or fight like hell for the life she wants and the love she deserves.
With searing wit and incredible insight, Emily Belden serves up a delish look behind the kitchen doors of a hot foodie town.
I got to ask Emily some questions about her novel, and she was kind enough to answer them.
CR: Both of your books include drug addicts and the whole idea of recovery. How does it fit into your world?
EB: Even though I have not struggled with addiction myself, I have been very close to people who have (and still do). In fact, they are some of the smartest, most loveable people I have ever been around and so naturally their existence and place in my life was inspirational. I’m lucky to not have been burned by their addiction, but I have often wondered “what if” and HOT MESS is the answer to that question.
CR: There’s a saying, “always recovering, never recovered.” What’s your experience with recovery, particularly in relationships?
EM: I’ve been through some tumultuous relationships that left me in a sad place because of how meaningful they once were to me. I’ve found that the key to coming to a place of peace is letting go of the idea that the past could have been any different. When you do, you can actually let go of old wounds, which in and of itself takes time.
CR: A sober person going into a relationship with a person in recovery is a lot like stepping into a HOT kitchen. Did the metaphor just come out of writing, or was it planned?
EB: The metaphor just revealed itself as the book sort of just wrote itself. This was a story in which the first draft came together within three months. As many writers know, that’s not all that common and when it happens, you know you have something special.
CR: You keep mentioning the character is in her 20s … an excuse to be excessive or will she grow up?
EB: I think Allie grows up tremendously just throughout the time she gets “Benji’d”. In my personal experience, that happened to me as well. I made similar mistakes at that age and even though they were brutal to go through, I always felt that the knowledge gained from said experience gave me an edge on all the other twenty-somethings I knew. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I was the strongest person I knew and proud of it.
CR: Anything you want readers to take from your novels?
EB: One theme I’m seeing come up in the reviews that have leaked so far is that HOT MESS is a story of empowerment and entrepreneurialism. Even though those weren’t themes that I consciously intended to pull through when I wrote the manuscript, I’m delighted to see them emerge years later—especially given today’s social landscape and movements.
CR: Thank you so much Emily for sharing your time with us.
Emily Belden is an author for powerhouse publisher, Harlequin/HarperCollins. She is represented by famed literary agency, Browne & Miller, along with 44 Blue Productions in Burbank. The SoCal studio is adapting her memoir into a comedic series.
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Thanks to TLC Book Tours, we have one copy of HOT MESS to giveaway. Just tell us your thoughts about addiction. We’ll announce a winner next week. Good luck.