Beautiful Messy Love is the second novel by Australian author, Tess Woods. When fifth-year med student, Lily Harding finds herself looking across the hospital café table into the beautiful blue eyes of a gorgeous blonde man, she’s not expecting to fall in love. After all, she still carries a flame for Ben, her ex, now doing charitable things in Kenya. And when she sees blue-eyes again, in the oncology ward, at the bedside of his terminally ill wife, well, it may be beautiful but she knows it’s all wrong.
Aussie Rules football star, Nick Harding is sick of the debauchery: he vows to turn over a new leaf. But is that even possible with his reputation? When Anna serves his coffee at the local café, he’s instantly smitten. But Anna (Anwar) is a good Muslim girl who’s way too busy (two jobs, volunteer work for asylum seekers, caring for a six-year-old orphan refugee, about to start a Law degree) to spend any time with Nick. But Nick, even new-leaf Nick, can be charming and persistent.
Four narrators relate the events of their lives and loves over a seven month period, with an epilogue two years on to tie up the loose ends. The plot is foreseeable, but only for Part One and then it twists and turns and ventures into uncharted territory. It’s gotten messy. The characters are appealing for all their flaws and emotional baggage, and even the somewhat stereo-typical minor characters are not wholly predictable. The dialogue is natural and the banter between certain characters provides plenty of humour.
This is a novel that touches on both topical and age-old themes: the plight of asylum seekers, grief, survivor guilt, being stuck in the wrong career, media scrutiny, the clash of cultures, and effect of preconceptions about those cultures on established loyalties. Because it’s a book about young lovers, yes, there’s quite a bit of sex as well as gratuitous use of expletives. But also fidelity, fiery passion, football and fun. Even a bit of Harry Potter. An entertaining read.