The Messy Lives of Book People by Phaedra Patrick

Liv Green, the protagonist of The Messy Lives of Book People, has always dreamed of being a writer. But when her opportunity comes about, it isn’t the way she expected it.

“Right from the start, Liv is a likeable protagonist. She’s a hard-working, 42-year-old mother of two sons.”

At the outset of the book, Liv holds down three part-time jobs in Manningham, England. She works as a cleaner at an accounting firm, a household with two busy children, and at the apartment of a reclusive writer named Essie Starling. It’s the latter job that she’s most enthused about. Although Essie’s prickly nature makes it difficult to warm to her, Liv holds her in deep regard. After all, Essie is the author of the tremendously popular Georgia Rory series, and Liv is a fan.

Right from the start, Liv is a likeable protagonist. She’s a hard-working, 42-year-old mother of two sons. The death of Liv’s father, a university professor, at a young age, left emotional scars. Though Liv would have liked to attend university herself, she had to leave school at age 16 to help her mother financially and around the house. Now, labouring as a cleaner, she’s looked down upon and taken advantage of by people at the establishments she works for. And yet, she knows she has more to offer the world.

When Essie asks Liv for her opinion about a recent book review, Liv answers honestly, even though the response isn’t flattering to the author. Her candour pays off. Essie is struggling with both her personal life and the plot of her twentieth Georgia Rory book, and she hints that she may want to get Liv’s ongoing assistance with the latter. A promise of deeper discussion in a few days keeps Liv on tenterhooks until their next meeting. But before that meeting can take place, Essie dies as a result of complications after surgery.

When Essie’s solicitor Anthony reveals that Essie left instructions that she wanted Liv to finish writing the book, it seems like a dream. But the request is all too real, and it comes with strings—Liv must do the work in secret, and is forbidden to tell anyone about Essie’s death until after the book’s due date, November 1. That’s only six months away.

Liv’s family could use the pay raise that comes along with her new role. Besides, she feels flattered that Essie has chosen her to complete the book. As a long-time fan of Essie’s work, Liv is very familiar with both the series and the protagonist, so she feels equipped for the task. But completion of the novel won’t be easy, and the publisher makes it clear that there’s no wiggle room with the deadline date.

The most recent Georgia Rory books have been missing a certain spark that was present in the earlier ones, and it’s apparent to Liv once she’s read Essie’s manuscript that there’s a lot of work to be done smoothing out what’s already there, as well as plotting and writing the final eight chapters. Essie hasn’t left sufficient notes behind to signal what she really had in mind. To fulfil the task properly, Liv decides she needs to try to unravel the mysteries of Essie’s tangled past. In the process, she is also forced to examine her own situation and ask herself what she really wants in life.

As the story drives toward its conclusion, the reader is carried along by the desire to find out the answers to some key questions: Why did Essie’s life go off the rails? Why did the reclusive author choose Liv to finish her novel? Can Liv finish the book in a way that will live up to fans’ expectations, while meeting the demanding deadline? The Messy Lives of Book People delivers the answers, and a convincing world-building and an entertaining plot make the read an enjoyable ride.

Phaedra Patrick studied art and marketing and has worked as a stained glass artist, film festival organizer and communications manager. Her books have been translated into twenty-five languages worldwide and her first three novels were all USA Today bestsellers. Her second novel Rise and Shine Benedict Stone has been made into a Hallmark movie. Phaedra lives with her family in Saddleworth where she writes full-time.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Park Row (Harper Collins, May 31 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 352 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0778312003
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0778312000

Lisa Timpf is a retired HR and communications professional who lives in Simcoe, Ontario. Her writing has appeared in New Myths, Star*Line, The Future Fire, Triangulation: Habitats, and other venues. Lisa’s speculative haibun collection, In Days to Come, is available from Hiraeth Publishing. You can find out more about Lisa’s writing at