When she has time around her three cleaning jobs and family, Olivia (Liv) Green is an avid reader. Her favorite character is Georgia Rory. She has read and reread all nineteen books in the series by Essie Starling and thinks she knows the character inside out. But, if given the chance, is that well enough to finish Georgia’s story? In The Messy Lives of Book People by Phaedra Patrick, Liv is about to find out.
In the Green household money is tight. One son is in college and the other will go in the fall. Also her husband Jake’s family owned book-binding business is struggling. To help finances Liv had to add a third cleaning job. It was with none other than her favorite author, Essie Starling.
Essie is a recluse and not exactly warm or friendly. She refuses to communicate with her agent and editor unless it is by email or text and her personal assistants don’t last long. However she and Liv have formed a sort of friendship. That bond is tested when Essie discovers Liv reading the unfinished draft of book twenty in the series.
Instead of being berated or fired Liv is asked to give her honest opinion of not only the draft but also of the latest Georgia Rory novel. That opinion, Essie has lost her passion for her character, results in a surprise offer. Essie wants to enlist Liv’s help in reviving the character.
Eager to learn details about what this new arrangement will mean, Liv rushes to Essie’s apartment on her normal cleaning day. However the apartment is empty and Liv is asked to meet Essie’s solicitor, Anthony Pentecost, at a coffee shop.
Pentecost has startling news. Essie has died and the solicitor is to pass on her last request to Liv. “Dear Olivia, if Anthony is speaking to you now, the worst has most likely happened. If you need to take a little time out from this job and your others, you will be paid. If I die, keep my passing a secret for six months. During this period, I want you to complete my latest novel.”
It is six months at double the salary and with a tidy sum for expenses. But is this something Liv can do? She aspired to be a writer when young but didn’t have the opportunity to go to university. Deciding the lack of a degree can be overcome she is inspired to try. There are thirty-two very rough lackluster chapters, eight chapters yet to be written (every Georgia Rory novel is forty chapters in length) and less than six months to meet the November 1st deadline.
As she begins the rewrite of the draft, Liv finds herself struggling with the direction Georgia should go and who will be her final love interest. Liv needs to channel Essie but writing in the apartment and wearing Essie’s clothes are not enough. Discovering more about Essie is the only way Liv can go forward with writing.
Revealing the author’s past proves difficult. It also adds strain to her marriage. Liv and Jake have grown apart and becoming empty nesters is showing the cracks in their relationship. Now she can’t tell him about Essie’s death, that she is finishing the novel, or about her quest to uncover Essie’s past.
Will discovering Essie’s secrets help or hinder the finish of the novel? One thing is certain, Liv is finding a new path forward. Can her marriage survive the changes that are coming?
If you are like me and love series fiction, would you want to step into Liv’s shoes and decide how your favorite series ends? The library has this title in both regular and large print. Suggested read-alikes are Sara Adam’s The Reading List and Beach Read by Emily Henry.