Yes, I was puzzled too by her remark, English seems to be on the spot, standard US English.
I am not sure why do you think you dodged a bullet here, also why you did not provided him with samples?
I am not talking about you doing the samples, I mean searching online for samples and send him something along the line of moodboard so he can better visualize his vision.
If this was my client it would go like this:
Client: I think I want Victorian blonde lady.
Me: Sure. How about checking these to see what fits best and I will get commercial rights for it if anything is perfect, if not send me the ones that are the best and what modifications you would like to see.
Client: My book is about urban poetry.
Me: OK. Check these and let me know what style looks close to what you have in mind.
I do not understand why would he send you the images directly. For me, I think designer needs to guide the buyer and assist him.
All of this that is needed to complete the order can be done in first 15-30 minutes of conversation.
For example, client comes and wants logo done with letters BBD.
Is any of the styles or concepts presented here up to your liking? https://www.google.com/search?q=logo+BBD&sxsrf=ALeKk02qtxl1IXPs6HtphnA3ktgcbovbWg:1617136156536&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi8-6bR7djvAhVyhf0HHYw3DeQQ_AUoAXoECAEQAw&biw=1920&bih=880
If he likes some, great, I have starting point to develop upon. If he hates them all, great I know what not to do.
Fiverr is not 3000$ per order kind of environment. And even if it is I would still use internet to brainstorm ideas and to make sure my idea is unique.
I think you missed an opportunity here.