For fans of the high-stakes tension of the New York Times bestsellers Luckiest Girl Alive and The Lying Game, comes “a brilliantly paced thriller that gets under your skin in the best possible way” (Megan Collins, author of The Winter Sister) about female ambition and what happens when fake violence draws real blood.
After years of struggling in the Chicago theater scene, ambitious actress Kira Rascher finally lands the role of a lifetime. The catch? The mercurial Malcolm Mercer is the director and he’s known for pushing his performers past their limits—on stage and off.
Kira’s convinced she can handle Malcolm, but the theater’s cofounder, Joanna Cuyler, is another story. Joanna sees Kira as a threat—to her own thwarted artistic ambitions, her twisted relationship with Malcolm, and the shocking secret she’s keeping about the upcoming production. But as opening night draws near, Kira and Joanna both come to the realization that Malcolm’s dangerous extremes are nothing compared to what they’re capable of themselves.
An edgy, addictive, and fiendishly clever tale of ambition, deceit, and power suited for fans of the film Black Swan, Temper “revels in its mind games, delivering twist after twist as it races toward a Shakespearian climax. The final page will leave you gasping” (Amy Gentry, author of Last Woman Standing).
Layne Fargo writes dark, dramatic stories that support women’s rights—and also women’s wrongs. She’s the author of the novels THEY NEVER LEARN and TEMPER, co-author of the #1 bestselling Audible Original series YOUNG RICH WIDOWS, and co-creator of the UNLIKEABLE FEMALE CHARACTERS podcast on Lit Hub Radio.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Layne worked as a dramaturg, a librarian, and a knowledge manager, and she still loves going down a good research rabbit hole. She lives in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago with a rescue pit bull and cat who are best friends, the only man she never wants to murder (well, almost never), and way too many books.
I don't even know what to say or how I feel about this book--part of me loved it, another part of me hated it.
I am not going to give a synopsis of the plot. It’s best to go in blind.
I hated the plot. Been there, read that!
I hated all of the characters, but I couldn’t stop reading about them.
I hated the ending. I predicted it from the start.
I was hoping for something that went a little deeper and was a little crazier.
BUT, as much as I disliked the characters and the plot, I was riveted. I knew what was going to happen, but I was still eagerly turning the pages. This is a testament to Layne Fargo’s writing style--this book got under my skin and messed with my head! I didn’t love Temper...I didn’t even like it. But it kept me thinking and I am still thinking about it.
After thinking on this one overnight, I do believe the less I say here the better for you, future reader. I would recommend throwing caution to the wind and just diving in when you're in need of a dark and gritty psychological thriller. At times, the plot gave off a similar vibe to JP Delaney's Believe Me, yet I feel that this novel focuses more on the drama and slow building disintegration of the character's relationships, which gave a feeling of creeping dread until the explosive final page. I'll end here, but if you are interested in a suspenseful novel that isn't hinged on solving a mystery, put this on your summer TBR.
*Thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy via NetGalley.
Is it possible to have a good week after reading this book? a good month? a decent year? my sources say: fuck, no
Temper is basically If We Were Villains on steroids. It's a dark psychological thriller about a bunch of morally-fraudulent thespians who obviously need psychiatric help. The ending offers more questions than it answers. It's terrible, you should read it.
Okay, there was definitely something about LAYNE FARGO'S writing style that totally sucked me in. The narrative was so seductive that I was totally entranced with what I was reading and could not put this book down. I am actually quite surprised with how much I enjoyed this book because I don't normally do too well with some of the content that this book had to offer but I was just as obsessed with finding out what was going on here as these characters were. And that is all I'm going to say about that. LOL
TEMPER by LAYNE FARGO is a riveting, suspenseful, brisk, and dark psychological thriller that was absolutely unputdownable. It’s a storyline that appears to be the same old, same old but let me tell you there isn’t anything even remotely similar here to anything that I have ever read before. Once I started reading it I was hooked and so absorbed in this juicy storyline that I was flipping those pages as fast as I possibly could.
LAYNE FARGO delivers quite the impressive, clever, tension-filled and well-written read here that is told in short alternating chapters between the perspectives of our two main characters, Kira and Joanna. The author excels in holding you in its grasp with all the character manipulation and foreboding going on here. I was super curious every step of the way and these characters definitely made this quite the entertaining and immersive read for me.
Norma’s Stats: Cover: The cover of this book is just as sensual as the book. It has this velvety soft feel to it that is absolutely irresistible. I was a little proud carrying around this book. LOL Title: Clever, suspenseful, intriguing and a fabulous representation to storyline. I love the title of this book. So good! Writing/Prose: Well-written, seductive, steamy, captivating, alluring, enthralling, and readable. Plot: Clever, intriguing, dark, intense, seductive, alluring, steamy, suspenseful, riveting, fast-paced, absorbing, enjoyable and entertaining. An absolutely fabulous storyline!!!! There is a little bit of explicit sexual content as well as some profanity. Ending: A fabulous and explosive resolution that was a little bit expected but still left me feeling elated and totally satiated. Loved it! Overall: 4.5 Stars! It was such an irresistible, enjoyable, fun and entertaining book to read. I thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience!!! Would definitely recommend!
Thank you so much to Simon & Schuster Canada and Layne Fargo for my complimentary copy. It was quite the memorable reading experience!!
All I can say is - WOW! Layne Fargo absolutely entranced me with her seductive yet dark writing. I found myself in a constant state of foreboding while reading this book, yet I could not stop turning the pages - anxious for more.
I will not give anything away. I urge you not to even read the synopsis. When I picked this book up, I had forgotten what it was even about and it turned out to be the best thing. Go in blindly and savor every morsel. If you enjoy dark psychological thrillers - grab this one. You won’t regret it!
This book is a monumental achievement in the dark psychological genre.
I have never read a book with even the slightest of plot similarities to this one.
Honestly, the description does not do this book justice but I can understand why. That is because you cannot possibly describe the foreboding atmosphere and psychological manipulation created in this story.
This book moves at an unhurried pace as it slowly and methodically envelops the reader in it's shadows and it is devine.
Layne Fargo is an exceptional writer that has produced an edgy, compelling and sumptuously sensual narrative. If this weren't her debut novel I would immediately start on another of her works.
Sure to be among my 2019 favs.
I cannot conclude this review without mentioning the cover of this book. Digital pictures come nowhere near capturing this image. It's like having an acid trip while walking through a carnival house of mirrors.
Even the paper the cover is printed on is sublime.
*** I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. All opinions are my own. ***
She keeps recommending me books she hasn't read but feels like they'd be my vibe. I keep putting them off and second guessing her cause SHE HASN'T READ THEM! But when I tell you that this girl is right EVERY 👏🏻 SINGLE 👏🏻 TIME!
I want to start this off by saying that if you aren't an actor or have never been immersed in theatre at some point in your life, you probably won't like this book. And you definitely won't believe it.
I was in an acting cult for a year when I first moved to the city. Listen, it was wild and the stories I could tell you. Boy howdy.
But, when I tell you that this book is real life. If you read it and think there's no way actors feel this way or go to these lengths or take their job this seriously - you are mistaken. Not all actors, obviously. But there is a sub category of actors who do.
I have seen these things with my own two eyes. I have witnessed people put real guns to their heads in a scene just to get to the right head space. I've seen people shave their head on stage. I've seen someone make out with and grope his female scene partner without consent cause 'it felt like something the character would do'. I've seen actors get told by the teacher that they should have killed themselves and that they're worthless and no one wants them just to make them cry 'believably' before a scene starts. I've seen it all. And I'm here to tell you that Layne Fargo NAILED IT. She absolutely nailed it.
I don't condone what is done in this book at all. But I loved it so d*mn much. It's f*cked up and messy and tragic.
this is a book about *jazz hands* the theater, where as much of the acting, or rather performing, occurs offstage as on.
at the novel’s center is malcolm mercer—a celebrated actor-director and legendary narcissist known for pushing his cast beyond their emotional and/or psychological breaking points for the sake of aaaaaart, his casual disregard for the trail of broken actors and brokenhearted sexual conquests left carelessly in his wake excused because of his genius &yadda.
around the charismatic lodestone of malcolm circle two women; joanna—his longtime business partner, friend, platonic roommate, and enabler, and kira—hungry for her big break, soon-to-be starring opposite malcolm in an edgy, erotic, and violent new two-person play.
these two female characters take turns driving the narrative in ever-narrowing circles around malcolm, or at least their idea of malcolm; their alternating chapters failing the bechdel test on every single page, yet somehow paradoxically building into a story all about women and female power.
it’s a fascinating slow burn of a debut touching on obsession, competition, ambition and jealousy, with some outstanding POV work. because he’s never given an opportunity to speak for himself, the only insight we get into malcolm’s motives or behavior is through kira and joanna’s interpretive filters, which, despite the profound effects of his actions and influence on everyone, sorta reduces him to a prop, albeit a cruel, sadistic, douchey prop.
furthermore, in these alternating POV chapters, when we see how deeply these women misunderstand and misinterpret each other’s whole fundamental deals, it’s clear we’ve become the captive audience to a tale of two unreliable narrators, making malcolm even more nebulous an entity—someone’s idea of a prop.
there are many layers to unravel here—secrets nested within secrets, misjudged actions inciting misguided reactions, tensions rising, complications rippling every which way and it is ALL VERY DRAMATIC INDEED.
however, one of the problems with being excellent at character development is that you can do your own story a disservice in the realm of “surprising plot twists.” if the reader understands these characters down to their bones, it’s not difficult to connect “what motivates them” to “what they will do/have done to achieve their goals.”
i like plot twists as much as the next guy, but i’ve read too many psych suspense books that’re just coasting on the “look at me!” flash of their twists. fargo has done the hard work required to strengthen her story’s core instead of striving for the narrative equivalent of rock-hard abs; more decorative than useful, but these efforts ultimately undermine the element of surprise.
i appreciate it so much when i can see an author's dedication to the work—whether it’s in their research, an ambitious story-structure, or even just the sense that they've got a coffee-stained vision board somewhere stuck all over with different colored post-it notes strung to raggedy-edged magazine clippings and vintage postcards.
here it’s character work for days. there's the very basic surface opposition: joanna, well-tailored and angular, a study in cool, competent, controlled repression, v. kira—the very definition of blowsy: all curves and unruly hair, bed-rumpled and unpunctual. beyond that, it's all brambles: the assumptions each makes about the other, the red herrings and coincidences, backstories and bedrooms, secrets and strengths, madness and method (acting).
even though the shock of it all was muted for me by way of chekhov's foreshadowing, my overdeveloped readerly empathy & her too-good character work, that just makes me even more excited to read her next one, They Never Learn, which i have here on deck for SOON reading.
Audiobook...read by Jayme Mattler, and Hillary Huber
I came close to quitting this several times. It wasn’t ‘listener-addicting’... I set it aside - came back - set it aside - came back again. Friends who read it before me .....even those who had ‘like/hate descriptions in their reviews- gave this book an overall thumbs-up rating. So....I finally committed to it!!!
Rehearsals begin for “Temper”....at the non-equity-indi community theatre called: “Honest Theatre Company”, in Chicago. The two-person play is about a married couple and their troubled relationship. It’s not exactly a first rate Theater Company to begin with....it’s a run-down theater that can’t possibly make enough money from selling tickets, alone. So, I never understood the over-zealous desire to be a part of the show. And the obsession with perfectionism - (which wasn’t effective anyway), was over the top.
THE MAIN PLAYERS: ....*Malcolm Mercer* plays the male lead. Malcolm’s a big fish in a small pond-director. He’s directing himself in Temper. ....For his leading lady...Malcolm casts *Kira Rascher*. ....Malcolm is also the co-owner of the theater company along with *Joanna Cuyler*. Malcolm and Joanna are also roommates ....Joanne ‘ isn’t perky-happy that Malcolm hired Kira. Jealousy bells were going off. ....*Spence* is a professional combat choreographer and Kira’s roommate.
CATFIGHTS - TENSIONS - UGLINESS - between jealous women explode on and off stage. There was as much drama offstage as on. The combat choreography scenes were equally dramatic off-stage as on. There’s a lot to learn when actors have violent fight scenes on stage. Safety is first and foremost - most important. BUT....the fight scenes became too real - too physical - too bloody.
Rage - attraction - jealousy- sex & steam - assumptions - bitterness - entitlement - manipulation - narcissism - and abuse intertwined between the characters - on and off stage.
I didn’t hate this book - but there wasn’t anything exceptional either. The Sex & steam wasn’t particularly juicy. The jealousy was a little boring. The narcissism was predictable..... The RAGE was the most interesting aspects for me....especially when the actors went in and out of character so much - they could no longer tell if they were acting or not.
So.... I finished it! My overall thoughts: It was OK!
Ok, okay, OK..... already!!!! It was an OK book.
PS. This was a debut....so kudos to the author! Lynn Fargo is better than an average writer. She is better than OKAY*!!!
3 strong stars.....right down the middle. Average enjoyable....a ‘like/hate’ read.
A cast of unlikable characters doing terrible things to one another. This could have been a 5 star read for me but for the life of me I can't understand the control one character has over every one else that they came in contact with. Men and woman alike would practically lie down and die for this guy and I just didn't get it. He didn't come across as charming or charismatic so I'm a little perplexed. However the writing is outrageously good and the short cliff hanging chapters were done to perfection. Even with my one complaint aside I was compelled to read this baby to the end and I did it quickly so that has to say something about the authors talent. I will definitely grab her next book. 3.5 stars!
WOW.. this is an EPIC read for the psychological thriller genre!
I have never experienced a plot LIKE this.
The summary of this book doesn't even remotely come close to giving the book justice. This was sexual, HOT, and psychological manipulation at it's finest.
This book was initially a little hard for me to get into and was a bit slow. I was thinking ok... these characters are crazy and this book is boring. But, MAN was I completely wrong. Layne Fargo you're a psychological thriller GOD.
ONE of my top favorites for 2019!! What a stellar debut that you don't want to miss. I can't wait to see what Fargo has up her dark sleeve next.
Dark, sexy, hot, sexy... did I say sexy?
What a book!!
Thank you so much to Gallery/Scout Press and Netgalley for the arc in exchange for an honest review.
Listened to this on audiobook and actually got to 90% and DNF'd it, and I don't even care how it ends. There was a ton of sex, jealousy and unnecessary drama. Not really much of a plot, or at least if there was one I couldn't really follow it. What a disappointment :(
Temper is, hands down, one of the best books of 2019. It's dark, it's different, and it dares to take chances and pulls them off spectacularly.
Temper is about an actress, a playwright, a theater director, and a fight coordinator. Their interconnected (and increasingly complicated) relationships as they audition for, organize, and stage a nee play, Temper, is fascinating--both chilling and utterly compelling. Temper ask questions about trust, about friendship, about sex, about love, about honesty, about how we construct ourselves and about how we decide what parts we want to play and what happens when we don't want to play them anymore.
The ending is brilliant. While the book is outstanding, the ending is what propelled this far up the list of my best of 2019 reads. Yes, Temper is different, but it's different in the best way and the most rewarding way. Definitely do yourself a favor and read this! Very highly recommended.
This is a Thriller. I think this book was ok. I have to say I really did not like the ending. I really wanted to like this book, but every book is not for everyone. I have to say I did not like any of the characters, and I think that stop me from really getting into the story. Overall, I just do not think this was the book for me. I won a hardcover of this book from a goodreads giveaway, but this is 100% my opinion.
Temper is a very quick read, that you should totally go in blind! You know I enjoy blubbering about the synopsis, but this time you need to just know that it's a distant relative to ML Rio's If We Were Villains. Kira is a struggling actor, and her personal life is just as crazy as her trying to break into the theater world. Kira auditions for a role and meets director Malcolm Mercer. Malcolm has a reputation for being extremely cruel to his actors, and also has a personal reputation for being a womanizer. Kira believes she can overcome Malcolm's advances and make her new gig the best part she's ever had. The theatre's co-founder, Joanna Cuyler is not impressed by Kira and her acting ability. She believes that Kira is using her sexuality to advance her career and is lacking in the drive and talent department. Will Kira be able to make this part the best job she's ever had? Will her own insecurities get the best of her?
Temper is definitely a story that I wasn't expecting. It's not as suspense-driven as I thought it would be, but it's definitely a good character study. We really dive into themes of sexuality, power, and manipulation; and the story is a juicy quick read for you to enjoy. I really loved how the author handled sexuality and orientation in this story, and I'd like to read more novels that follow this nonchalance about it. I wish it had more of a thriller element to the story, but it really should be looked at as a drama. If you go into Temper knowing that, you'll definitely enjoy it!
This novel has it, but not the choreographed ballet of romance novels. Instead, a boxing ring comes to mind with opponents circling - throwing a hook here, landing a jab there. Bold and unashamed, not pretty, but not too explicit either.
The physicality is woven throughout, however the main act is the psychological warfare employed by four central characters, each attempting to gain the upper hand. Who will win?
Written from two perspectives, both Joanne and Mira were attention worthy. I love the author for creating complex characters in ways I hadn't expected.
Mira in particular was unique because I was deep into the book before I realized she was a femme fatale. She was so focused on serious acting, she seemed unaware of others' perceptions of her. A different book may have given her a superficial physical description and left it at that.
A couple of writing gems for me were:
“...Men like Malcolm seem to have a sexual tension with everyone. Everything even. Brick walls. Lamp posts. Their own reflections.”
"The last gasp of summer breathing down the neck of fall"
I'm not the best at discerning twists, but the direction seemed evident early on. This didn't matter because for me, it was about the journey.
I mean, I guess I didn't really care at that point. By three quarters of the way through, I was extremely bored. The characters were all unlikable, and not in a fun way. They were just dumb and terrible at being people. Malcolm Mercer was supposed to be this sexy, magnetic, sociopath-type guy and the whole time I was just like???? He seemed like one of the more normal ones, tbh.
I thought this book did a not-great job of building up to what happened at the end. Some stuff happened, people acted off, and then the book just ended. I guess the narrators were supposed to be unreliable, but that didn't come across very well to me. And the whole "psychological" aspect of this so-called psychological thriller was just... was it even there? I don't know. This was boring.
Tantalizing, twisted, and dark—Layne Fargon’s debut novel Temper is without a doubt one of my favorite reads on 2019, and it remains so on a reread a year later!
I remember the first time I read this, and as I was reading on a break at work on my favorite nook on the 67th floor and I could see angry storm clouds brewing over Lake Michigan. There is something sexy and terrifying about a summer storm in Chicago—the steely gray lake, the furious black clouds, and the wind billowing through, inviting you to open your mouth for a moment and just inhale that intoxicating moment. It is truly the setting I envision now as I reflect on Temper. It is the perfect setting, one our leading male Malcolm would find poetic, perfect, and dangerous. Much like how I find this book!
Struggling actress Kira Rascher is looking for her break in the theater scene in Chicago. Her best friend (with benefits) and roommate Spence is a great support system and outlet for her, but she is struggling. When she lands a role starring opposite the enigmatic and dangerous Malcolm Mercer, she knows it is all coming together for her.
Malcolm has quite the reputation with his leading ladies, but he also has an irrefutable reputation for excellence in the Chicago theater scene, running a theater company and occasionally acting with his long-time partner and friend, Joanna Cuyler. Malcom goes to any lengths necessary to push his actors to their full potential. And an open subject like Kira is ready and willing to go to her darkest moments to pull out the performance of a lifetime.
But Joanna sees Kira as a threat. The deeper down the rabbit hole Kira goes, the more dangerous it becomes. And as opening night draws near, Kira is no longer sure if she is the star of the show or the star of the drama unfolding offstage.
Layne Fargo has a way of writing that is positively tantalizing. I found several times while reading that I forgot to breathe I was so invested in the story. This is a dark fantasy of a psychological thriller. It made me feel desperate and raw, and so invested. I couldn’t put this book down!
This is such a unique book, and as a Chicago gal myself I was so loving the setting and that Layne Fargo herself lives here and knows this city so well. There is a reason that Chicago is the inspiration for Gothic City… it is all things dark, beautiful, and mesmerizing. I felt often that the atmosphere of the city on a stormy day like the one I described seeped through Fargo into the pages of this book. I felt like I was living it myself while reading it. Perfection!
Thank you to Layne Fargo and Gallery Books for my copy. Opinions are my own.
I haven’t read many thrillers set in the theatre, but Layne Fargo’s debut “Temper” brilliantly illuminates that world of creativity, ambition, competition, and desire. In the staging of the play “Temper,” a dark and twisted relationship triangle develops and volatile emotions and manipulative and unpredictable behaviors escalate to shocking levels. The character development is well done in this dark psychological thriller and the level of suspense continually intensifies. While there were some portions of the story that didn’t quite hang together for me (particularly why Kira and Joanna would continue to tolerate Malcolm’s abuse), I think Fargo is a writer to watch.
Thank you to Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Unfortunately, I was not the right audience for this book. I just could not get into the story and I didn't really like any of the characters. I found them all selfish and quite disturbing in their actions. This book had such a great potential with all the mind games and psychological manipulations going on between the characters, however the plot was predictable for me. A lot of drama, violence, anger, egocentric behavior, and sexual tension in this psychological (thriller??) drama which left me feeling icky and quite disturbed.
Thank you Netgalley and Gallery Books for giving me an opportunity to read an ARC copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
Layne Fargo is quickly becoming one of my favorite thriller writers. First I got the chance to read They Never Learn, a more traditional thriller which I loved. Then I picked up this crazy little book and loved it just as much.
If you’ve ever done any acting, or appreciated acting in the audience, there is so much to enjoy here, so many wicked little jokes about the craft. The book centers on a Chicago theatre production called Temper. I will say, it’s not hard to figure out where this book is going to end from the beginning, but that’s part of its charm - it’s not a thriller that banks on surprise twists, it just keeps ratcheting up the horror and the sense of impending doom until the crescendo.
I think the less said about the plot the better — this is a book in which it’s just best to go along for the ride. So I’ll say a few things I love about Layne Fargo’s work in general and in this book in particular.
1. Unlikable Female Characters. I learned that Fargo has a podcast by this name, which I’ve just subscribed to. She loves unlikeable female characters (so do I!) and boy does she write them well. There are some doozies in this book. 2. She deals very frankly and very well with bisexuality and sexual fluidity and features multiple awesome bisexual characters. In addition to this being just great for the genre and for LGBTQ representation in general, you also have to consider the many advantages this brings to a thriller. Literally anyone could be a suspect because they’re in love with/in a secret relationship with/sexually coveting someone else. :) 3. The writing. Fargo’s writing style is what I love most. She’s more literary and adept with words than most contemporary thriller writers, yet her prose is never slow or weighed down, and the thrills keep coming. She is never obvious nor does she feel she has to overexplain things to the reader. (A pet peeve of mine in thrillers of late.) She trusts the reader’s intelligence.
I loved this book so much that I was surprised it didn’t have more 5* reviews, but then again, it’s a super aggressive, super dark, super weird book that is probably not for everyone. And it’s not perfect. But for sheer reading enjoyment, this is one of the most fun dark thrillers I’ve read in a long while.
I think my skin was crawling with tension throughout this dark, dry tale. Two women, both ambitious, both attracted to a sadistic, domineering actor, both driven beyond their boundaries and both on a collision course of destruction.
Twisted, brutal emotionally for the characters and filled with deceit and manipulation, there wasn’t really a developed character that I liked, but I give kudos to Layne Fargo who wrote in bold strokes to bring forth a tale one will not soon forget.
TEMPER by Layne Fargo had me unsettled throughout and after struggling to get through the first half of the book, it opens up into a full throttle, jagged edged thriller that made my head spin, a total love-hate read for me! I found myself wondering: How far would you go to achieve your personal dreams? Would you forsake your very soul?
I received a complimentary ARC edition from Gallery/Scout Press!
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press (July 2, 2019) Publication Date: July 2, 2019 Genre: Psychological Thriller Print Length: 352 pages Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble For Reviews, Giveaways, Fabulous Book News, follow: http://tometender.blogspot.com
It seems incongruous that a book can be this good when all the characters are this unlikable (well, maybe with one exception). But when I had several chapters to go at the time we left for a three-day vacation with friends at the Marblehead area of Lake Erie, I stuffed my Kindle in my suitcase. I would, I vowed, make time to finish it. And I did - the very first night.
Short chapters that shift among character perspectives helped hold my attention on every single page. But it was the characters, all of whom I would classify as seriously screwed up, that really reeled me in. Even though I was certain how the book would end - and I was right - the way the story and characters evolved (for better or worse) made me wish I could have holed up and read the whole thing in one setting.
Kira Rascher, an aging actress who's been hoping for a juicy role for years (for whatever reason, Cassie from "A Chorus Line" came to mind), finally gets her wish as notoriously nitpicky director Malcolm Mercer chooses her for the lead in "Temper." The play is the latest venture at the theater founded by Joanna Cuyler, who doesn't think Kira is right for the part. Malcolm's relationship with Joanna is complicated, to say the least; they live together but, despite Joanna's wishful thinking, are a platonic couple.
Kira, too, has a complicated relationship (think: friends with benefits) with her apartment mate, Spence, who makes a living staging realistic, but accident-free, fight scenes for theatrical productions. For the two-person cast of "Temper," he's staging the final scenes between Trent and Mara, the characters played by Malcom and Kira. As rehearsals begin, Malcolm lives up to his take-no-prisoners reputation, challenging everyone involved in the production to their near-breaking points. He sets his most psychologically destructive sights on Kira, who knows exactly what he's doing but is sure she can out-psych him and deliver the performance of her life.
But can she? Aye, there's the rub. In fact, given this mixed-up bunch, whether there will be any survivors at curtain call is anyone's guess. Thoroughly engrossing and fast-paced (with no shortage of graphic sexual situations and explicit language, I note for those who eschew such things). Thanks to the publisher, via NetGalley, for allowing me to read and review an advance copy.
In this book, the theater is written as a bloody place on and off the stage, though I'm not sure why it is marketed as a mystery and thriller. It is more of a psychological drama. Think of a less kinky “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Or a not as well written version of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?” In a Chicago community theater, you will meet Malcolm. He is one of the theater’s co-founders, director and always one of the play’s main characters. Fargo does a good job of portraying Malcolm as a darkly charismatic creep. He has a reputation of being a merciless director doing whatever it takes for his fellow actors to give the performance he wants from them. Then there is Kira. She is the actress who finally lands the role of a lifetime in a two-person play. Guess who is her director as well as her costar?
Do you know what the term knap means in the theater? I didn’t until this novel. During a slap scene, one of the actors whacks a part of their body so the audience hears the sound of skin hitting skin. The purpose is so that no actor actually gets hurt—except when one is working with Malcolm. Kira is supposed to pretend to slap him in the face and do the knap on her bare thigh, which is not in the audience’s view. He makes her rehearse the scene for hours in a row. So she, herself, black and blues her thigh. One of her ex-boyfriends sees the massive purple bruise and angrily asks, “Did he do this?” The author is clever here. What can she say, “no, I did it to myself.” Of course not, she would sound like a fool. So instead of answering, she changes the topic by seducing him. Fargo gives Malcolm many other nasty tricks up his sleeve. He invites another of Kira’s ex-boyfriends to the opening-night rehearsal without filling her in. The purpose is to bring out her old rage at the man so she can use it in the play. No “red room,” but still lots of punishment.
If those two weren’t enough to keep the reader busy, Fargo adds in the character of Joanna. She is the other co-founder of the theater, its manager and Malcolm’s roommate. She is also his enabler. Joanna is desperate for his sole attention and views the actress as a threat. Did I mention that for over a decade she has sexually longed for him? They sleep in the same bed but do not have sex. Did I mention that the sexual tension between Malcolm and Kira is through the roof: Nothing happening between them either. Though Kira does have sex with her bi-sexual male roommate, and Joanna does have sex with another woman, and Malcolm is having sex with every other woman in the Chicago but those two —“Payton Place” 2019.
Clearly, Malcolm is the bad boy and these two women bend to his wishes. I’m guessing there are no “pink hats” in either Kira’s or Joanna's wardrobe. This doesn’t really fly in today’s MeToo times but does make for a decent suspenseful story. “Temper” is the kind of book you read just to be entertained. No real thinking required. I did appreciate Fargo’s surgeon-like precision with her characters. I bet if I read this one in the summer on a beach I may have enjoyed it more. If you are looking for a quick read with lots of twists, then I recommend Fargo’s debut novel.
OH sometimes I feel I have no rhyme or reason for how I rate books. Mostly it's whatever I felt right after I turned that last page and I absolutely LOVED this one. I'm not a very artistic-y or creative person myself but I'm sure if I was, I'd probably jump off the cliff of crazy myself.
You always hear about that brilliant director/actor/writer/artist that is hard to work with, is temperamental, a genius, a bit frightening perhaps, but still someone that is typically revered and you're *blessed* to have a chance to work with him or her. Let me introduce you to Malcolm. His reputation precedes him but isn't that was also draws you inexplicably to him? Kira has dealt with her fair share of *interesting* men and has put up with enough, she's sure she can handle him. But who is to be feared the most? What he's capable of? Or what she's capable of?
This definitely gives off a bit of Black Swan vibes. How deeply into a role does an actor go? Is method acting going too far? Do you really lose yourself in the character you're portraying or are you just THAT good at switching on and off?
This one ramps up chapter by chapter. Is Malcolm a genius or a sociopath? I neither loved nor hated the characters. I was fascinated by them. I wanted to slap the women, throttle the men, drink the whiskey, let myself go and scream! The build up crescendos into an ending that while expected, still left me gasping. Fargo delivers and hit the nail that I needed right now right on the head.
I’m not quite sure what I expected when I picked up Temper and I’m still not entirely sure how to classify it now that I’ve finished it, but I will say, I did enjoy it! To be clear, Temper is not a thriller, the best way I can describe it is a psychological mind f*ck - but not so much for the readers as it is for the characters on one another.
Temper had me curious and guessing the entire book and kept me completely captivated. I’m choosing to not say more as this is the kind of book it’s best to go in blind on.
For a debut author especially, Fargo did an excellent job on pacing and keeping readers enthralled (myself, specifically) and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for what she does next!
Thank you to Gallery books for an advanced copy. All opinions are my own.
Yes, Yes, Yes!!! Here is my "official" blurb. What I loved MOST is that you have to read every single word or you will miss a plot twist. And that forces you to leave your own world behind, which is why we read books.
Temper is raw, ingenious and utterly fearless. I devoured every word as the story bent and twisted in ways I did not see coming. Layne Fargo delivers psychological suspense at its very best - without tricks or misdirections, just brilliant story telling and profoundly astute observations about human emotions and relationships. Temper is the real deal.