Hadley Beckett's Next Dish
A solid step up from Bethany Turner’s previous novel, Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish is a fine contemporary romance about two chefs with clashing personalities who find love.
The titular Hadley Beckett is a wiz in the kitchen. With two Michelin stars to her name, she’s sugar sweet and southern charm, inspiring waves of followers who consider Hadley their wholesome girl next-door.
Celebrity chef Max Cavanagh is anything but wholesome. A bad boy chef with a worse reputation, he has nine Michelin stars, several restaurants and is Hadley’s competition on an episode of America’s Fiercest Chef (Think Iron Chef or Chopped).
When Hadley and Max aren’t playing good cop/bad cop on the show as they cook for their lives, they’re hosting two shows constantly jockeying for the top slot on the Culinary Channel; Max’s show is the Gordon Ramsay-ish/Bobby Flay-like To the Max, and Hadley’s is the predictably sweet-natured At Home with Hadley. So it’s not shocking that when Hadley’s dish beats Max’s during their AFC episode, he throws a huge tantrum. Since the show’s pre-taped for edit, Hadley presumes the scene will never see the light of day, but it’s leaked, and Max’s show is suspended, his career in jepoardy.
Soon after, Hadley is approached by Leo, Max’s big-time agent, who wants to make over her show and boost her career by putting her on Renowned, a show she watched in her childhood that she’s always dreamed of appearing on, in return for her assistance in relaunching Max’s career by sharing the season with him. Hadley’s been managed by her no-nonsense – and never-has-any-time-for-Hadley – Meemaw since her career started, and to take up the offer, she needs to finally confront the woman.
Max and Hadley begin spending time together to prepare for the series, and soon the two of them are doing more than bonding over food. She soon learns there’s a devoted, detail-orientated side to Max, and Max learns that there’s more to Hadley than her sugar-sweet exterior. But can they develop trust in one another when so many differences seem to stand in their way?
Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish is a surprising charmer of a novel, a heartfelt southern production with a sense of humor and a lot of cute ideas.
Max’s arrogance is a nice counterbalance to Hadley’s kindness – but Hadley isn’t so kind as to be unbelievable, nor Max too over the top to be sensible. Both simply work as characters, and together.
But the romance suffers from a bit of a case of insta-love. While the pair does take the time to get to know one another, when Max kisses Hadley for the first time, it feels a bit sudden, as if it were in need of more time to percolate.
I enjoyed Hadley’s pushy-but-not-evil Meemaw, and I liked the surprisingly kind agent Leo, who bucks all agent-in-romancelandia stereotypes on the way to being one of the books’ best things.
Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish’s inclusion of faith-based elements comes in a more subtle format than in the author’s previous book, Wooing Cadie McCaffrey. The religious faith of the characters feels more of a background subject compared to the book’s simple message of redemption and its simple plot construction. That construction is what kept the book from a higher grade, its predictable no-one-is-going-to-talk-this-out plot twists are a groan, and the characters deserve better. The book’s best plot devices revolve around Hadley’s struggles to command respect as a serious chef in the television world.
In the end Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish isn’t going to be every romance fan’s main course – but it’s good enough to earn a solid passing grade.