If We Were Villains by M L Rio **Blog Tour Review**

I am delighted to be part of the Blog Tour to celebrate the publication of M L Rio's If We Were Villains. As soon as I read that comparisons were being drawn with Donna Tartt's The Secret History, I knew I had to read it. This excerpt from the publisher certainly whetted my appetite as I hope it will yours:

 IF WE VILLAINS is the dazzling debut novel from Shakespearean scholar and author M.L. Rio. A page-turning literary thriller in the tradition of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, the novel weaves a compelling tale of love, lust, blood and
revenge. Rio’s sumptuous prose blends effortlessly with Shakespearean verse in an original murder mystery that
explores the nature of human compulsion and obsession; an essential read for 2017.

 
More about the book

Oliver Marks has just served ten years for the murder of one of his closest friends – a crime he may or may not have committed. As a young actor studying Shakespeare at an elite arts conservatory, Oliver felt doomed to always be the secondary character in someone else’s story while his friends – heroes, tyrants, temptresses, villains all – took the spotlight. But when the teachers change up the casting what started as good-natured rivalry turns ugly, and the drama of the plays bleeds dangerously into real life.

Then tragedy strikes and one of the seven friends is found dead. Now they find themselves facing their greatest acting challenge yet:convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.


A decade later and back at the conservatory where it all began will Oliver reveal the truth of what really happened back then, and what were the fates of the remaining poor players – hero, villain, friend or foe? 


When friends become enemies there’s no limit to the damage they can do.

My Thoughts

In If We Were Villains, we have seven drama students / young actors who are drawn together in the elite arts conservatory which they attend. When we meet them, they have been there several years and in a sense they are the survivors as each year, students are culled. They seem to blur the lines between real life and acting as they lapse into Shakespearean language. Their personalities seem to echo the parts they are allotted. The balance of the life they have fallen into is upset when they are cast in different roles to the one they would have expected. It is as if their rules have changed. As friendships are stretched to the limit and tragedy happens, it is up to the reader to try to discern the truth. Of course with a cast of characters who are actors by trade, this is not an easy task.

I found it to be an intriguing read with each of the seven characters differentiated. It seems some of them have been hiding their true feelings from each other and it is easy to believe in the complex world they live in. Their friendships have many layers. The pacing and plotting was spot on and of course, the ending did surprise. It was one of those double- no- treble takes when you think-'Did I just read what I thought I did?' 

I enjoy a literary thriller and for the most part appreciated all the Shakespearean quotes and references although I did feel that sometimes, less could have been more. There was a temptation to stop and look up the references to see if there were hidden clues hiding there in plain sight. Of course, there were, as the plays and parts they were playing began to mirror life. At times, this was in danger of breaking the thread but for the most part, I stuck with the story due to the great momentum which was building up. I loved the structure of the book, split into five Acts with scenes for chapters and there were some standout scenes eg the Hallowe'en production of Macbeth.

In addition to a mystery to uncover, there is so much more to explore in this book. How far does friendship take you and when you are bound together in a lie, can it survive? Obsession and betrayal are a powerful mix and we see the consequences. It is a book for those who love literary allusions (I do) and mixed with suspense and beautifully drawn characters, it makes a great read.

In short: a glittering suspense story for those who love literature.  

“Where we are,
                                           There's daggers in men's smiles."
                                                      — Macbeth (II.iii)




About the Author


M.L. RIO was born in Miami, and has just competed her MA in Shakespeare Studies at King’s College London. In 2016 she won a contest to stay in Hamlet’s Castle at Elsinore for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, where she was the first person to sleep in the castle in over 100 years. IF WE WERE VILLAINS is her debut novel. 

You can connect with the author here: |  Twitter  |  Website
   |  Facebook   |  Instagram   |  Pinterest   |  Goodreads
 
 
 Thanks to Phillipa Ward and Titan Books for a copy of the book and a place on the Blog Tour.

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