When novelist Lana Green’s literary agent tells Lana that her second, as-yet-unpublished novel is actually never going to be published because it’s depressing, bleak and bitter, Lana is upset but not really surprised that her novel about rejection has been rejected.
After all, she has been going through a really bad patch and isn’t in the mood to write the upbeat romantic fiction her agent was expecting to find.
Kitty Golding, literary agent extraordinaire, observes that perhaps Lana would like to pay back the advance, then? But Lana can’t do that. She already has an overdraft. So there’s only one option – write another novel, give it a happy ending, and do it in record time. Oh, and by the way – find an inspirational hero, too.
Since she was dumped by her boyfriend, Lana hasn’t been looking for heroes. She’s gone right off men. But when she meets Jack Buchanan in a pub, they come to a weird kind of arrangement. Lana might not be looking for love, but she certainly needs a hero who could inspire her to write her next story.
Jack sets out to be that hero.
Jack has a stepmother, Nancy, who is living with dementia and driving Jack demented, too. Nancy needs help. Lana needs money and somewhere to live. Nancy Ellis Hall used to be a bestselling novelist whose friends were people like Beryl Bainbridge and Germaine Greer. Lana longs to be a bestselling novelist, or at least a novelist who can pay the bills. Nancy lives in a book-lined mansion that promises to be not only a brilliant place to work but also to be an in-house carer, too. It’s a marriage made in heaven. Or is it? As well as working for Nancy, which proves to be challenging as well as rewarding, Lana starts teaching creative writing in order to make ends meet, and this proves to be quite a challenge as well.
Meanwhile, Jack is doing his best to be an inspiration to Lana hero-wise. I don’t know if being woken up at five on a winter morning to go kayaking on the Thames, dodging the river police because you might need a licence to do that kind of thing, would be my ideal hot date, but it proves to be inspirational in many ways. Maybe Jack will turn out to be more than just inspirational? As for Nancy – maybe the book everyone would want to read could be the story of Nancy’s own life?
Jack and Nancy are great characters and I felt privileged to be invited into their lives. Lana ends up feeling privileged too.
Sophie writes about the ups and downs of a novelist’s life with wry accuracy and there are some laugh-out-loud moments in this story as well as some sobering reflections about life, love and the games people play.