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Hot Mess

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  882 ratings  ·  168 reviews
Twenty-something Allie Simon 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 wu ...more
Paperback, 412 pages
Published March 20th 2018 by Graydon House
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Eleanor Roth
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Average rating 3.63  · 
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Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)
Allie Simon prides herself on making sensible decisions and has maintained high standards for the first twenty- five years of her life. That streak of smart choices is about to end as she enters into a relationship with Benji Zane. Benji is an up and coming chef in Chicago with a long history of drug addiction.

Six months into their relationship, Benji is offered a job as the head chef at a new restaurant. For the project to get off the ground, he must make a $30,000 investment. With no savings o
Nikki (Saturday Nite Reader)

Twenty-five year old Allie Simon has a good head on her shoulders, a good job, good friends and supportive family. She becomes consumed by a charming, bad boy celeb chef named Benji Zane and her simple life as she knows it, well isn’t very simple anymore.

Benji is a recovering addict who – only 3 months sober – asks Allie to invest her entire life savings in “their” future (to partner in opening a restaurant with Benji at the helm, sold alongside the future image of them married with kids in a br
DJ Sakata
My Rating:


Favorite Quotes:

Food may be the way to a man’s heart, but as my colleagues assemble around me, I’m convinced it’s the way to a woman’s ego. It’s like I’m dating da Vinci and I’ve just hung the Mona Lisa in my cubicle. Everyone is ooh-ing and ahh-ing, reminding me just what an awesome perk it is to be dating Benji Zane. I’m the cool kid at the lunch table… “You’re so lucky,” a girl from a different department gushes from the kitchen table. I don’t even know what her name is, but she
h o l l i s
When I started HOT MESS I was not anticipating that I would actually like the story, despite a highly enthusiastic recommendation from a buddy (hi Micky!). All I knew about Belden's book was that it featured a chef, and a girl was.. maybe a hot mess? I don't need much to go on to pick up a read, really (obviously). But while this was so much more than I expected, it did take a bit for the story to settle, to get me invested. That said, I think by.. 30%? I was all in.

The chef is a recovering addi
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: physical-arcs
If you like wickedly delicious humor, a not so perfect love story and mouth watering descriptions of food, Hot Mess needs to be on your TBR! This is told solely from Allie’s point a view, a twenty five year old woman entangled in a dark relationship with a bad boy chef, Benji. I’m not sure if hot mess even accurately describes the total nightmare that is their union, but she believes in Benji despite his drug addiction and selfish behavior. I liked Allie and was totally rooting for her, she’s yo ...more
Bookphenomena (Micky)
4.5 stars which I’m rounding up the rating for because it was just that good.

Some books explosively blow you away and some subtley creep and invade your mind until you are powerless in your interest. HOT MESS was the latter, it built and built to a cluster of addictive, messed up reading. I would categorise it as a mix of contemporary romance and women’s fiction.

This story that’s all hot and messy, charts a relationship between the ‘It-Chef’ Benji and his girlfriend who literally hangs on for de
Jenny Jo Weir
May 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: ok-read
A bit too long and drawn out for not that much. She falls in love with and addict and then ignores the red flags, and goes all in backing him up when he hasn't earned it. She ends up having to pay for it all when he goes missing and then its just a long version or her hashing it out and going over everything that went wrong. For a pretty long book, not a whole lot happens. Maybe it's just me, but this one missed the mark a little in my opinion. However, if you are into the restaurant industry, y ...more
Booksandchinooks (Laurie)
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of this book from Harlequin Publishing #partner for an honest review. I went into this book not reading the synopsis and having no clue what it was about. I struggled a bit in the beginning of the book but then it caught my interest and I was hooked. The story is told from Allie’s point of view so it’s easy to follow. Allie is a 25 year old social media coordinator for a company she enjoys working for. Benji, is her drug addict, unemployed famous chef boyfriend. Allie believes ...more
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: chick-lit
I have had a lot going on lately and have tried several books but have lost my concentration. I was looking for something light and escapist and this fit the bill perfectly. Allie is a 25 year old up and coming and social media whiz who has all areas of her life under perfect control except for her junky boyfriend Benji. Benji convinces her to invest her life savings in his business venture and then promptly goes on a bender and disappears leaving Allie to either lose her investment or jump into ...more
Apr 24, 2018 rated it liked it
I think I'm getting old. The first half was too much sex and drugs and I keep screaming, DON'T DO IT, ALLIE.
But around the middle of the book, it changed and I kept screaming, GO ALLIE! YOU CAN DO IT!
Mar 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, funny-reads
This was an incredibly fun book to read. Even though there are some darker themes to the book like having your boyfriend relapse on you and leave you with 10% ownership of his restaurant, it was still cute. The writing is pretty easy and since it's in the first person, you're reading it from Allie's point of view. While Allie doesn't seem like the most literary person in the world, the writing keeps the story breezy and allows you to continue reading to find out what happens next. It doesn't get ...more
Chandra Claypool (WhereTheReaderGrows)
YES TO THIS BOOK! One, the title speaks to me because this basically sums up my life as a whole. Two, as someone who has worked in the restaurant industry from hostess to server to bartender to bar manager to FOH manager, I related SO much to this and understood the jargon, the hard work and the industry as a whole. Three, as someone who typically drowns herself in toxic relationships, I understood Allie's want to make something this dysfunctional just WORK. Nothing wrong with believing in someo ...more
Dayle (the literary llama)
I had a bit of a rough start with HOT MESS, not because it was bad, but because I felt like my expectations were skewed. Like most people, I read the synopsis for a book and go from there, and maybe this is my own failing, but I tend to expect the majority of the synopsis to be outlined in the book by page 50 or so and for the rest to be a mystery of new situations and plot resolutions. So it was with a bit of a squint and continued turning pages that I found that the entire synopsis took up rou ...more
Dec 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
3.5 stars.

Allie Simon meets Benji Zane, a Chicago chef renowned for his culinary skills and his cocaine addiction, and her life soon becomes subsumed by his. He claims to be clean, working the NA program, and desperately in love with Allie. Despite numerous people warning her not to get involved with an addict, she falls deeply for him and upends her life for him. When he is offered a job to start a new restaurant, she hands over her life savings as his buy in. Of course he goes off on a cocain
Probably 3.5 stars total--3 for the first half and four for the second half and food descriptions and rounded up to 4 stars.

I love a good foodie novel and especially ones that are set in the world of professional chefs and restaurants. I like the ability to live vicariously through the characters as having been involved both in opening and supporting birth quick service food concepts and casual dining restaurants in my career, I know the hard work that goes into them and have no desire to actua
Feb 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: contemporary, fiction
An entertaining read with some local criticisms from a fellow Chicagoan.

This book was a great read for those of us who are not sous chefs but watch a lot of Food Network and Top Chef and consider ourselves a bit of a gourmand. The story weaves culinary knowledge with contemporary romance fiction in a fun way. Characters are well described and given a chance to flourish, including our protagonist. It is one of the more realistic novels I have read about modern romance, especially those that have
How could I not buy a book with that cover and that title ... Hot Mess is a perfect title. I'm so glad that I picked it up. I really liked this one. I loved the focus on entrepreneurship, finding your own way, hard work and pulling your life together on your own terms. The restaurant pieces were also really interesting. I think what I loved most about it is that it's not a traditional love story sort of book. This could have easily become a romance but instead is a really good book about growing ...more
mindful.librarian ☀️

Hmmm.....let's think of three things I love to read about! Food? CHECK. Chicago? CHECK. Social media and entrepreneurship? CHECK. This book was a lot of fun to read, and it was definitely a little edgier than I anticipated it would be. The addiction storyline gave it a heavier feel than many titles in this genre, and although I almost screamed at Allie a few times, I am very aware of how a relationship with an addict can be incredibly complex. If you like foodie fiction and want a fast-
Nicole R
This book was fine. Nothing to write home about. It felt really long for a contemporary romance, and I think it was supposed to be light-hearted but it kind of was just sad at times.

Allie is loving life. She does social media for a cotton swab company in Chicago and is on the cusp of promotion, she is dating the hottest (looks and career) chef in the city Benji, and she lives in a cute apartment with said chef where he cooks amazing meals for her and rocks her world in bed.

Oh, except for the sma
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was sent a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I read Emily Belden’s first book Eighty-Sixed and really enjoyed it, so I was so excited when the publisher reached out to me and asked if I wanted to read and review Hot Mess!

Hot Mess was pretty fun to read and at times it got a little intense. I was sucked into right at the start. The story is told in Allie’s POV and I instantly liked her. Right from the start Benji seemed a little sketchy to me, but Allie was in love with
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: august-2019
Thank you Kaye Publicity for sending me a copy of Hot Mess by Emily Belden for review.

Allie is dating a newly sober hotshot chef. Living together while he gets clean and figures out his next move is hard but love isn’t easy. When Benji’s pop up dinners start to do well, he gets the offer to be chef de cuisine at a potential hot spot, there is only one hitch. Emily has to invest her life savings in order to secure his ownership rights.
I have to say, the start of this book had me in full mom mode
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to Teresa by: Bookphenomena (Micky)
Shelves: read-2018
Well the title of the book was pretty accurate for me. The heroine was indeed a hot mess. I feel as if I can count on one hand the number of book heroines I have hated intensely, and this book gave me one more. I thought she was an idiot, and I never got over that idiocy. I get that this may be a finding your own strength story, but I came to dislike her so much, I couldn't appreciate it. And even how she went about it in the end, annoyed me. I guess she seemed to learn her lessons by the end so ...more
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this one. It’s not really a romance per se, more a girl power sort of book. I’m so glad I checked this one out after a recommendation from another GR reader.
Jamie Rosenblit
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs
I am a SUCKER for dysfunctional relationships, food fiction and a good comeback story. Is this the comeback of hot chef with a recovering cocaine addiction, Benji Zane? Or the comeback of his girlfriend, Allie Simon, who has put all her faith in her bad boy boyfriend - who despite being the hottest chef Chicago has seen, seems to have issue after issue that no amount of success can fix.

This book just resonated on so many levels as it seems there's an Allie in all of us, especially me, someone w
Luke Williamson
Jun 12, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
Babe, this book was really unreadable babe. Babe, I gave it 70 pages and there was no apparent direction on where the story was going and, babe, the characters were just not likeable babe. And she massively overused an endearment throughout the story babe. See if you can guess what it was babe. Yes, it was 'babe'. Sorry Emily, I don't like to be a negative reviewer but this should have been much more vigorously edited. I finish just about every book I start but not this time. ...more
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
As someone who ran two fast food restaurants with my husband, I could not resist the opportunity to be on the TLC Book Tour for Emily Belden's debut novel Hot Mess.

Allie Simon loves her job as a social media manager for a cotton company. After hours she works at pop-up dinner events with her boyfriend Benji Zane, the bad boy hotshot chef of Chicago. Benji is three months sober after a serious drug problem and has moved into Allie's apartment.

He is a rock star as a chef, but other than creating t
Mar 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Hot Mess is not your usual romance story. When I think of romance books I think sexual tension plus hot and steamy love scenes. Yes Hot Mess has a beautiful girl and a gorgeous tattooed hottie.Yes this story does start off with an intense romantic relatioship and ends with love but the bulk of the story is about the main characters self journey.

Allie Simons life is literally as the title suggests a "hot mess". I'm talking a train wreck that you just can't help but watch as everything crashes an
Mar 06, 2018 rated it liked it
*I would like to thank HARLEQUIN - Graydon House Books (U.S. & Canada) for providing me a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book and opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

This book is one of those realistic novels to date even though the book is longer than it should be. I didn't feel connected with Allie, though I love her character growth as she made bad decisions and eventually learned from them in a hard way. Angela is
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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Emily Belden is a food journalist, social media marketer, and storyteller. She is the author of the novels Hot Mess and Husband Material, and of Eightysixed: A Memoir about Unforgettable Men, Mistakes, and Meals. After she tiled her bedroom floor in over 60,000 pennies – all heads up for good luck – she was a guest on The Today Show and her story was covered by media outlets across the country. A

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