If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

Debut novelist, M.L. Rio has written a captivating literary thriller about an elite group of Shakespearean actors. All seven are in their fourth and final year at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place where the competition to keep your spot is decided at the conclusion of each academic year. Oliver is our narrator throughout. He weaves a dark tale of friendship and loyalty in which he and his friends find themselves playing the same roles both on stage and off: a hero, a villain, a tyrant, a temptress, an ingenue and the extras. This group of accomplished thespians appear to be a happy yet dysfunctional family living and studying together in the Castle. However, in their final year of study the balance of power shifts and not everyone is happy about it.

On the opening night of their fall performance of Julius Caesar, relationships crumble and things take a violent turn. Oliver and company find themselves acting in and living out their own dark tragedy. If We Were Villains is genius, in my opinion. The first fiction book in a very long time to grip me from the opening line. It’s obsessive, romantic, chilling, passionate, violent- all of the elements that make a truly enthralling story.  I hope this is just the first of many novels to come from Rio.

~ Leslie M.