Damn, these debutante ladies are really teaching me some stuff. Constantly reminding me that I need to get out of my literary fiction rut and read books like this more often.

This book is absolutely page-turningly fascinating and delicious in every way. Layne’s characters are so real that it feels like they might leap off the page and bite me, and I’m not sure if the bite will be sexy or savage—or both.

The story is told through the alternating perspectives of two women, actress Kira Rascher and executive director of the Indifferent Honest Theater Company, Joanna Cuyler, a structure that Layne uses masterfully to propel the reader through the book. And this isn’t just because Layne has a brilliant knack for ending a chapter at the height of its tension in order to cut to the other woman’s perspective. It’s the way she uses their points of view to highlight how they see each other and every other character around them.

I fell in love with Kira as soon as she described herself this way: “My natural expression is the kind that inspires passing strangers to tell me to cheer up, so I have to rehearse my smiles almost as much as my lines.” Okay, I partly love this because this was me in high school. But also, it’s just damn fine characterization.

And shortly after, this is how Joanna puts it: “Kira Rascher seems like the type who would snap before she’d bend.”

I will confess, I’m sure one of the reasons I fell so easily in love with this book is because I was such a huge theater geek all through high school. For many years, I wanted to be an actress. I took roles in school plays and also belonged to a children’s theater group outside school. From October to April every year I spent pretty much all weekend, every weekend, at rehearsals. I’ve mentioned before that I also spent four years training my singing voice—well, that was also because of my stage ambitions.

All this to say, I found Layne’s descriptions of the theater world so compelling. It’s the perfect setting for this kind of psychological thriller. It raises questions about how far is too far with method acting, and explores all that can go wrong when a director immorally and foolishly blurs the line between what happens onstage and off.

The book is chock full of brilliant one-liners and observations. It’s also incredibly sexy and steamy. It’s laugh-out-loud funny. And in many ways, it’s heartbreaking. This is more than just a twisty, dramatic, psychological thriller sort of book, although as a psychological thriller I think it’s excellent. It’s a deep exploration of toxic relationships and holds nothing back as it spirals toward a conclusion that somehow manages to feel both surprising and inevitable.

Author: Martine Fournier Watson

Martine Fournier Watson is originally from Montreal, Canada, where she earned her master's degree in art history after a year spent in Chicago as a Fulbright scholar. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband and two children. The Dream Peddler is her first novel.