While Belden’s sophomore novel makes occasional missteps, this upbeat tale of finding connection and love after a tragic loss is nevertheless charming. Los Angeles data analyst Charlotte Rosen, 29 and unhappily single, is developing an app that evaluates compatibility between potential mates. She goes on frequent dates both to refine the app and to seek her own perfect match. No one knows—and Charlotte herself has tried hard to forget—that she had an apparent perfect match in Decker, her husband, who died five years ago. When Decker’s ashes are unexpectedly mailed to Charlotte, the walls between then and now crumble, casting new light on all her comfortable but distant relationships with her roommate, Decker’s mother, and the men she dates. Charlotte can be judgmental and self-centered, but as past conflicts reemerge, her reasons become clear and understandable. The second half of the narrative reveals yet more secrets and ends up feeling a bit compressed, with certain knots untangling mostly because the plot needs them to. Still, the heartfelt whole will keep readers engaged. (Jan.)
"In this touching, witty, and timely book, Emily Belden deftly explores the complexities of human relationships in our increasingly tech-obsessed world. By turns heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny, Husband Material beautifully demonstrates that you can't reduce love to a bunch of 1s and 0s."—Kristin Rockaway, author of How To Hack a Heartbreak
"Sensitive, thoughtful, and touching." —Library Journal
"Witty, full of heart...will appeal to fans of Sophie Kinsella." —Booklist
"Charming." —Publishers Weekly
Praise for Emily Belden's Hot Mess
"A fun romp through the world of food, love, and luxury." —PopSugar, The Best New Books You Should Read This Spring
"[F]ull of fire and fury.... Belden's excellent tell-it-like-it-is read is perfect for foodies and entrepreneurs alike." —Library Journal (starred review)
"Combining the wit and insight of Stephanie Danler's Sweetbitter with the drama of Jessica Tom's Food Whore, Belden's first novel is a glimpse into the fast-paced fine-dining industry... . Full of heart, heat, and passion, this restaurant rom-com in novel form is an exhilarating debut." —Booklist
"[A]n engrossing, slow-burn read that yields a very satisfying emotional payoff... . Rich with perfect details, balanced between the various different relationships and presented in a well-crafted narrative, this novel is meant to be savored."—RT Book Reviews (Top Pick)
"Emily Belden serves the decadence and drama a la mode in Hot Mess. The full-bodied novel takes the resilient Allie Simon on a journey of sex, love, secrets, and the high-end culinary world. You'll savor every word of this provocative story." —Abby Stern, author of According to a Source
A 20-something woman is keeping a big secret from her friends and co-workers: She's a widow.
Charlotte Rosen thinks she's moved on pretty well from her husband Decker's death five years ago. She started a new job with a social media influencer firm, found a roommate who knows nothing about her past, and convinced her co-workers that she's just another single young woman in LA. She's even working on developing her own data-driven dating app that determines a couple's compatibility based on their social media profiles. Charlotte calls herself a "Numbers Queen" and knows that even though life may have thrown her a curveball in the past, data will never let her down. But life, it turns out, still has plenty of surprises left for her. When Decker's mausoleum burns down and his ashes show up on her doorstep, Charlotte begins to realize that she didn't deal with her grief so much as she ran from it. Now, she needs help from the people she left in the past—including her status-obsessed ex-mother-in-law, who's so controlling that she tries to sneak into Charlotte's building to steal her son's ashes back. Charlotte also reconnects with Decker's best friend, Brian, who used to be a partying frat boy but is now a children's doctor. Charlotte and Brian shared one impulsive kiss shortly after her husband's death, and unfortunately, she discovers that her attraction to Brian hasn't gone away—in fact, now that he's grown up a little, it's even stronger. But when Charlotte runs into a woman from Decker's past, she's forced to reckon with the fact that she might not have known him as well as she thought she did—and everyone else in her life might be full of surprises, too. Belden (Hot Mess, 2018, etc.) paints a realistic portrait of grief while still creating a story that is fast-paced and fun. The dialogue sparkles, especially when Charlotte is arguing with her snarky roommate, Casey. Plot twists near the end, though, strain credulity—Charlotte is quick to forgive some of the people in her life for major transgressions, and it seems like a more realistic reaction is ignored in favor of tying the ending up with a bow.
A quick, entertaining read about making sense of your past and making the most of your future.
Charlotte Rosen, a Brooklyn expat now living in Los Angeles, is a coder/data cruncher for a social media influencer company and is also creating a dating app. A young widow of five years, she thinks she is ready to move on romantically. She also thinks the past is the past, but the unexpected delivery of her late husband's ashes proves that it isn't (and brings her difficult mother-in-law back into the picture). If receiving the urn wasn't enough of a shock, a few more surprises make her anxiety skyrocket and cause her to question what she thought she knew about some of the people in her life. Belden's second novel (after Hot Mess) is sensitive, thoughtful, and touching in how it approaches the difficult topics of Charlotte's grief, loss, and other unforeseen life challenges, and the book's humor keeps it from being maudlin. However, there's a lot going on here, maybe too much. While romantic entanglements are typical of chick lit, here it feels forced and takes attention away from the more compelling subplots. VERDICT A story for chick lit fans looking for something a bit different and more serious than the usual offerings. [See Prepub Alert, 3/17/19.]—Samantha Gust, Niagara Univ. Lib., NY