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If We Were Villains

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  5,382 Ratings  ·  1,304 Reviews
Oliver Marks has just served ten years for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day of his release, he is greeted by the detective who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, and he wants to know what really happened a decade before.

As a young actor at an elite conservatory, Oliver noticed that his talented classmates seem to play the same character
Paperback, 422 pages
Published June 13th 2017 by Titan Books Ltd (first published April 11th 2017)
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Amalia Gavea
‘’’Tis now dead midnight.’’
Measure for Measure, Act 4, Scene 2

Why midnight?Midnight stands between light and darkness. The day that has been completed and the new one that slowly attempts to rise. During midnight, two key events take place in this glorious book, and like this haunting time of day, our characters are walking the thin line between good and evil. And for this, they make the best ‘’villains’’.

This book is so exquisite,so darkly beautiful that I didn’t want it to end. What fascina
until the ending, this was probably going to be a three star from me. a high three on the three-star spectrum, but a three nonetheless. it held my interest, but i think this one will resonate more with theater-kids than it did for me, because of how firmly entrenched it is in that world. rio makes it accessible to regular folk, but it probably helps to have a soft place in your heart for young actors and the things that drive them, and i’m someone impatient with affectation both in life and in m ...more
If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio is a 2017 Flatiron Books publication.

This is a psychological thriller for deep thinkers. There is crime and there is punishment. There is mystery, suspense. There are intense characters, shallow ones too, those who are fatalistic and those who are tragic… just like a Shakespearean play.

Ten years ago, Oliver Marks was one of seven Shakespearean actors at the prestigious Dellecher Classical Conservatory. Today he is about to walk out of a prison cell for the first
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who enjoyed "The Secret History," by Donna Tart
*Update - 2018*

Because I still think about this book, almost a year after reading it, I'm moving it to my favorite's shelf. I think it's deserving there, right alongside The Secret History and Vicious.

4.25-4.5/5 Stars

This was breathtakingly brilliant. Honestly, if this book isn't on your to-be-read list, it needs to be. It starts off shaky (at least it did to me), however, once it grabs your attention - it will not let go.

Now, where do I even start? Should I
Diane S ☔
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lor
4.5. A small elite school, a theater program that is only about Shakespeare, seven friends, seniors, together from the beginning, strong, intense friendships formed. Oliver, our narrator, one of the seven, just released from spending tempers in prison. How did something so special, so promising, go so wrong?

A novel of love, obsession, friendship passion and betrayal. Spending all their on and off time together, this little theater group becomes more important to each other than their real famili
4.5 stars

I have no idea what to say - love doesn't seem like an accurate enough to descriptor and nothing else comes to mind. This is 100% one of the most unique reading experiences I have ever had and now I have a headache. Full review to come.
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-reads
"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player /That struts and frets his hour upon the stage /And then is heard no more: it is a tale /Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, /Signifying nothing"

The five words or fewer pitch: The Secret History meets William Shakespeare. Let me start off by saying this is not a perfect book and it certainly won't work for everyone. In fact, I don't know anyone I would personally recommend it to. But I really, really enjoyed reading this, and even if it ultima
Oct 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, kindle
At the beginning I thought this was going to be a 5-star read for me. I was immediately sucked in and didn't want to put it down. I loved getting to know the characters; I found the setting and atmosphere very palpable and moody (it mostly takes place on a college campus in the late 1990's); and the Shakespearean elements were fun because I'd studied his work quite a bit in school.

However, as the story went on I found it to become quite predictable, and many of the elements from the beginning st
Apr 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Oh. My. God. I loved this I loved this I looooooved this! So beautifully written, rich in detail, with an amazing cast of characters, it kept me hooked from beginning to end. It’s a story about friendship, passion, betrayal, grief, obsession, and most of all, love for the theatre and for Shakespeare.

From Goodreads:

On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to kno
5 stars--I loved it. An amazing read that's exactly my genre.

Three things about this book that might make you love it or hate it:

1. It's very similar to The Secret History, both in plot and theme. I love The Secret History, so this was right up my alley.

2. It contains an abundance of Shakespeare. There's a Shakespeare quote or play discussion on nearly every page. The characters speak to each other using phrases from Shakespeare.

3. The characters are pretentious, entitled, white college kids. I
Dannii Elle
I think I just found a new favourite book.

Oliver Marks has been released from prison and only two people are there to greet him. One is the newly retired Detective Colborne. And he wants to know the truth. The truth of what put Oliver behind bars. The truth behind the lie that has haunted his entire career. And now, finally, he might be able to get it.

Oliver transports both the detective and the reader back in time to the early 1990’s. He is entering his fourth year of dramatic training at Delle
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If I Were a Numskulled Nincompoop ...
(I Shall Not Spoil It for You.)

The book was heavy on histrionics for narrative fiction (as opposed to a play); too predictable for a mystery novel; definitely too hokey for literary fiction. For example, without warning, the characters in the midst of regular dialogue tend to break into pages of lines from Shakespeare.

Nevertheless, the story should please Shakespearean "folly-fallen, foot-lickers," and those up for sudsy suspense.
KL (Cat)
Oh god here's to hoping I don't get lynched for this.

Personally, I find making book comparisons in reviews distasteful and frankly insulting to both writers. However there are times when a work comes up with startling similarities before you decide to roll your eyes, and say ok, Cassandra Clare, plagiarizing the Harry Potter series for The Iron Trial is not cool at all (and yes, it's been years but LET ME BE PETTY).

I'm not claiming that IWWV is a copy of The Secret History. Certainly there is
Olive (abookolive)
Apr 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This most assuredly has the feel of Donna Tartt's A Secret History which is high praise. Some of the characters are more likable than Tartt's and the Shakespearean focus is brilliant. This novel explores the depths of relationships and emotions using the bard as its conceit. I re-visited the intellectual intensity and pretentiousness of my undergraduate years and was surprised by how much of my college Shakespeare I remembered. This is a treat for those with a penchant for Shakespeare, an affini ...more
I was really looking forward to reading this (having followed this author on various social media for a while now), and it did not disappoint. If We Were Villains is an intelligent and moving story about friendship, passion, guilt, and the role Shakespeare played in all of the above for a group of seven student actors in their final year at the fictional Dellecher Classical Conservatory. This group of friends has spent years playing the same roles over and over onstage and off, but when their in ...more
Sam (Clues and Reviews)
I have a real warmth for Shakespeare; I majored in English Literature while I was in University and am an English teacher, so, I was over the moon when I discovered that this text explored a modern mystery with a Shakespearean twist. Let me just tell you, I was floored during my reading. I could not believe this was a debut novel. I truly cannot say enough amazing things about If We Were Villains by M.L Rio. Between the text’s originality, fast-paced plot, complex characters and smart dialogue, ...more
Tilly Booth
Mar 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finished a book!!!! I'll be posting my offical review when I get my life together :)
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Shakespeare and complicated relationships
Shelves: mystery-thriller
“Stars, hide your fires; let no light see my black and deep desires.”

But hidden desires can still lead to dark deeds. In If We Were Villains we follow a group of actors struggling not only with such desires, but also with Shakespeare, fame, love, and tragedy. 10 years later we see the result of that struggle when one of the actors get released for prison for a murder he supposedly committed. How could theatre get so out of hand?

Think of this novel as “The Secret History” but with the focus
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5/5 stars so I'm rounding up.

If We Were Villains is an intoxicating, modern day tragedy that spectacularly shows the effects that loyalty, betrayal, jealousy, and rage can affect not only yourself, but everyone around you. Oliver Marks has been released from jail after serving a ten year sentence. Detective Joseph Colborne sits down with Oliver and simply just wants to know; "Why?"

Flashback to the moment of truth, we are introduced to Oliver and his actor friends; Richard, Meredith, Wren, F
Apr 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm broken.

This is the best book I've read in a long time, and I've read some excellent books recently.

If We Were Villains is very similar to The Secret History in many ways, which is why I loved it. The same elite arts college setting, the same vivid portrayal of character, the same kind of connection with nature and atmosphere. It didn't take me long to feel as though I knew each character intimately, and I fell in love with each of them, despite their extensive flaws. Rio made me feel their
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Czy istnieje przepis na zbrodnię idealną? A jeśli tak to z jakich elementów się składa? Co musi się wydarzyć, by uznać ją za nieposiadającą wad? Pierwsze co przychodzi mi do głowy to fakt, by nikt nigdy nie odkrył sprawcy. Ale czy wtedy ktokolwiek by się o niej dowiedział? Żeby zbrodnia była idealna musi mieć autora. A co jeśli nie jesteśmy pewni, czy człowiek, który przyznaje się do winy na pewno ją popełnił?
Przy okazji lektury "Teatru złoczyńców" refleksja na temat zbrodni jest czymś naturaln
Liz Barnsley
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Because I am huge fan of Shakespeare and all that entails this book worked for me on every level. I lived this book and loved it. It is a homage to the bard and of course an atmospheric, beautifully layered and indomitably emotional story in its own right.

The comparisons to The Secret History are for once quite valid, but shoot me if you like, I much preferred this. I'm not a fan of Tartt's overly pretentious and self absorbed writing style that lacks any sense of editing, its not that I didn't
Abbie (boneseasonofglass)
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime-thriller

I was pleasantly surprised by this! With it being compared to the secret history, I was a bit wary because I struggled to get into that, but I think it was more due to the long description and stuff like that.

I hardly ever read thrillers / mysteries because I find them very hit or miss, I either love them or hate them! But the synopsis for this was too intriguing to resist!

I loved the characters, the plot, the setting and the writing. The characters were so layered, deep and complex. The o
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, overdrive
Oliver Marks is on the verge of being released after spending the last ten years in prison. He agrees to tell the true story behind his crime to the police detective who had arrested him, but who had never really understood the crime. Oliver was one of seven fourth year acting students at a conservatory. The sole focus of their studies was Shakespeare. The students lived together, acted together and basically saw only each other for most of the school year. Petty irritations naturally arose from ...more
April Pick for The Cheerful Wednesdays!

This read will be a little different since it doesn't really have "chapters," per say. So, we went by page numbers:
Apr 08: P. 001-089 | Apr 15: P. 089-177
Apr 22: P. 178-262 | Apr 29: P. 263-354

Sounds like an interesting read!
Feel free to join up, discuss with the group and have some fun-book-club reading!
If you've ever wondered what The Secret History would have been like if the plot revolved around Shakespeare rather than Classics, wonder no longer. Written by a former actor and scholar of Shakespeare, it's set at a conservatory for the performing arts in an otherwise nondescript Illinois town, where the lives of the central characters, seven fourth-year drama students, centre on 'Bardolatry'. Their semesters are organised around auditions, rehearsals and performances of Shakespeare plays, an ...more
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although I dislike new books/authors being compared to past ones, I must admit that I was tempted to buy this novel through the comparisons to “The Secret History.” There are similarities, but, obviously, also lots of differences. Saying that, if you do enjoy authors such as Donna Tartt and Marisha Pessl, you will probably also enjoy this. It has the same sense of place and character, and falls most comfortably under the heading of literary mystery.

We first meet Oliver Marks when he is released
Apr 12, 2017 marked it as dnf  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arcs-netgalley
DNF @ 10%

I overlooked the Shakespearean focus of this novel in favor of the comparisons to The Secret History. My mistake. Shakespeare has just never, and I’m resigned to believe will never, be my thing. The opening gives the reader a glimpse at the future, of one of the main characters being released for jail for an unknown crime, and it’s a hook that works. But then we’re introduced to seven characters: Richard, Meredith, Filippa, Alexander, Wren, James, and Oliver. Every single one of these c
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YA Buddy Readers'...: If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio (Starting May 10) 13 13 May 23, 2018 02:37AM  
The Cheerful Wedn...: This topic has been closed to new comments. If We Were Villains | Thoughts & Reviews 15 18 Apr 29, 2018 02:29PM  
IWWV age range? 2 55 Dec 04, 2017 11:34AM  
M. L. Rio is an author, but before she was an author she was an actor, and before she was an actor she was just a word nerd whose best friends were books. She holds a master's degree in Shakespeare Studies from King's College London and Shakespeare's Globe. She currently lives in Washington, D. C., but she is terrible at updating online bios, so this information will probably be outdated by the ti ...more
More about M.L. Rio

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“For someone who loved words as much as I did, it was amazing how often they failed me.” 59 likes
“One thing I'm sure Colborne will never understand is that I need language to live, like food—lexemes and morphemes and morsels of meaning nourish me with the knowledge that, yes, there is a word for this. Someone else has felt this before.” 51 likes
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