Review of ‘The Temp’ by Michelle Frances

I liked Michelle Frances’ debut novel, The Girlfriend. Her follow-up, The Temp, was published last year and I found it to be similar but not as engaging. Again it’s a psychological thriller about the tensions between two women, with the story told in the third person from alternating perspectives. And again the TV industry is a feature (not a surprise – the author is a script editor and producer). In her first novel, this was all right; one of the main characters is in TV but it doesn’t overwhelm the story. But in her second novel, all three of the main characters work in TV and the level of detail included about this career is, I’m sorry to say, rather dull. After finishing the novel, my overall impression is that getting into television scriptwriting is difficult but rewarding. I will soon forget the actual story, which was not as thrilling as the blurb promised.

There are some good aspects to the novel. It has the page-turning quality (or on my tablet, a page-swiping quality) I expect from this genre. The sense of place is effective and the characters are well-drawn, although it suffers from a lack of ‘good’ male characters (this is common in the genre). I also felt that the story was too long, with the plot stretching to fill the pages. I still wanted to find out what happened in the end, but I was getting impatient and starting to skim-read.

I think this novel was a missed opportunity. It could’ve been more exciting, more diverse in characters and locations. The theme of postnatal depression is lightly touched upon, if not mentioned. Carrie, one of the main characters, falls unexpectedly pregnant in her forties. She and her husband Adrian had never wanted children. After she’s had her baby, Carrie really misses her job and is paranoid that her maternity cover, Emma, is trying to oust her. The isolation of staying at home with a baby is well portrayed, but I feel that the author could have conveyed more of a message about mental health.

13 thoughts on “Review of ‘The Temp’ by Michelle Frances”

  1. It’s interesting how the debut novels are usually better than the follow ups. I’ve always seen a consistency in that. I wonder if there’s a drop off in energy. Writing that first book can suck the life out of some.

    1. Interesting thought, Bryan – and I’m thinking that if an author gets a 3-book deal (for example) they’ll be under pressure to write similar novels in the same genre to replicate the success of the debut.
      Thanks for your comment!

  2. A shame this wasn’t as good as the author’s debut. I agree with Bryan, a lot of authors put so much work and maybe edit their first book far more than a follow up. It probably is a time constraint, having to write a new book in time for the publisher’s deadline. But thankfully it doesn’t happen with all authors.

    1. Yes, I suppose when a first novel is successful then maybe the author can get away with less editing because there’s a good chance their others will be successful even if they’re not as good.
      But there are many authors whose follow-ups are better.

  3. That’s a shame that the novel didn’t live up to it’s predecessor. I find a lot of these domestic noir books to be engaging while you’re reading them but ultimately forgettable (obviously with quite a few exceptions!) And why are all the covers blue with yellow lettering?

    1. I think maybe because these kind of novels are about the plot so the characters aren’t that memorable.
      Yes the covers are all very similar… I think maybe copying the first Claire Mackintosh book, unless that one was copying another.

  4. I’m so glad you started visiting my blog and making yourself known there! You write simply, straightforward reviews that are easy to read. Thrillers aren’t my genre of choice, but when I do engage them, its through audiobook. I think this book would actually scare me a bit because it’s likely one of the biggest fears of new mothers that they can be easily replaced at work. I’m not sure where this novel was set, but in the U.S. we don’t have mandatory maternity leave with pay for new moms, so it’s possible that a woman can be let go for having children.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I really appreciate your kind words. I try my best to write clearly and regularly on my blog while keeping up with reading others!
      This book was set in the UK, where we have a law against maternity discrimination. However, really the situation could be anywhere, it’s a paranoia thing.

  5. Sometimes I wonder if writers do that as page fillers – dragging the plot – to fulfill some kind of requirement from the publisher .. When that happens, I feel so cheated and like you I’ll skim read too. Sorry you didn’t enjoy this read. I love your review and how honest you are with your thoughts! ❤️

    1. Thanks Jee 🙂
      Obviously writing a positive review is more enjoyable than a negative one, but I always want to be honest.
      It’s not a good sign when I start to skim read…
      But I do think many other readers liked this book 🙂

  6. I felt like The Girlfriend dragged on especially towards the middle, I see that this one presents some similar characteristics too. It’s a shame because the premise of both seems really good. I always enjoy reading your honest thoughts and this was no exception, great review!

    1. The book did drag on – if you had issues with The Girlfriend, then they are emphasised in The Temp. They looked more intriguing than they turned out to be.
      Thanks for your kind words 🙂
      I’m always honest in my reviews. I’m glad you liked it 🙂

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