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If We Were Villains

By M. L. Rio
If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio digital book - Fable

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Publisher Description

“Much like Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, M. L. Rio’s sparkling debut is a richly layered story of love, friendship, and obsession...will keep you riveted through its final, electrifying moments.”
—Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, New York Times bestselling author of The Nest

"Nerdily (and winningly) in love with Shakespeare…Readable, smart.”
New York Times Book Review

On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.

A decade ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extras.

But in their fourth and final year, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make-believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent.

If We Were Villains was named one of Bustle's Best Thriller Novels of the Year, and Mystery Scene says, "A well-written and gripping ode to the stage...A fascinating, unorthodox take on rivalry, friendship, and truth."

447 Reviews


Anxious Face with sweat“In high school I hated learning Shakespeare or anything even remotely similar. I had a hard time putting this book down. While, I think, some plot points were a little predictable, I couldn’t stop devouring this story to find out the ending. The writing was beautiful and I would have committed crimes to watch these characters perform or even just interact in real life. It was interesting trying to pick apart character motivations for decisions made throughout the book. Super entertaining pick!”
Characters change and growMulti-layered charactersBeautifully-writtenPoeticAddictiveDescriptiveThought-provoking
Slightly Smiling Face“I really liked this book! As a theater nerd and doer, myself, it was fun to read about that experience in a dark/mystery setting. A strength of the book is PLOT: great tension building and execution. I was hooked early on and gradually wanting to know more and more. A weakness for me was: Character. I did like the characters and cared about them to a degree, but we didn’t get to know them as much as we should’ve. I think some of the reveal in the end could have a stronger impact that way.”
Want them to succeedBeautifully-writtenPoeticSuspensefulTragicWell-researchedDarkHeartbreakingSexyFlat characters
Loudly Crying Face“I am lost for words. This is spectacular. I am going to be thinking about this one for a long time.”
Believable charactersMorally ambiguousBeautifully-writtenComplexHeartbreakingTragicHauntingHeartbreakingMemorableThought-provoking
Loudly Crying Face“me and this book are in love and having babies… bc i very much enjoyed it. i thought there could be a liiiittle more detail abt some of the characters that weren’t covered a lot, but i didn’t mind too much and i was totally hooked on the whole mystery of it all. and don’t even get me started on the ending i was like :O naur fuckin way. a devious part of me wants a sequel but i know there shouldn’t be one bc the ending was so unsatisfactory that it was satisfying”
Morally ambiguousMulti-layered charactersRelatable charactersBeautifully-writtenPoeticAction-packedTragicUnpredictableImmersiveMemorable
Smiling Face with Heart-Eyes“this book is so good man 😭😭😭 i dont know SHIT about shakespeare but i was in tears at the end istg… ml rio has such an enchanting and beautiful writing style and her characters are all so complex and flawed??? the tragic love story and the mystery had me hooked and by the end of it, i was speechless. i feel nothing but this odd nostalgia and a want for more 😭😭😭 my fav book so far this year!”
Morally ambiguousMulti-layered charactersBeautifully-writtenPoeticMind-bendingUnpredictableDarkEnchantingMade me cryMemorable

About M. L. Rio

M. L. Rio has worked in bookstores and theatres for years, and holds a master's in Shakespeare studies from King’s College London. If We Were Villains is her debut novel.

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