If we were Villains by M. L. RioIf | Summary, Themes, Synopsis & Characters

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TitleIf We Were Villains
AuthorM.L. Rio
Publication DateApril 11, 2017
Number of Pages368
GenreMystery, Thriller, Fiction
PublisherFlatiron Books
SettingA prestigious performing arts college

If we were Villains Characters

The main characters of “If we were Villains” are-

Oliver Marks – The protagonist and one of seven Dellecher Classical Conservatory theatrical students. He is intelligent, charismatic and talented but is haunted by his past and struggles to come to terms with his role in a tragedy that happened ten years earlier.

Richard – One of Oliver’s closest friends and one of the seven theatrical students. He is gifted and charming but he is also manipulative and enjoys playing mind games with his pals.

James – A skilled performer and one of the seven theatrical pupils. He is easygoing, kind and enjoys being outside.

Meredith – New theatre department director of Dellecher Classical Conservatory. She is a talented director who has a strained relationship with Oliver and the other students.

Alexander – A superb actor who is a member of the Dellecher company. He is well-known within the group for his charisma and penchant to stir up trouble.

If we were Villains Themes

The themes of “If We Were Villains” by M.L. Rio include:

Friendship and Betrayal – The story focuses at the complexities of friendship among a group of Shakespearean players at a prestigious arts institution, as well as how they deal with jealously, competition and betrayal.

Love and Obsession –The novel’s protagonists are intensely enthusiastic about their craft, relationships and goals which frequently leads them to make foolish decisions and act out of sheer emotion.

Identity and Performance – The novel delves at the conflict between one’s actual identity and the roles they play on stage and in life as well as how playing a character might impact one’s own sense of self.

Fate and Consequence – The story’s characters are passionately committed in Shakespeare’s works which frequently explore themes of fate and the repercussions of one’s choices. Similarly, the narrative delves with the concept of fate and the notion that one’s choices might have far-reaching consequences.

Art and Morality – The novel addresses concerns regarding the morality of art and the degree to which artists should be held accountable for the influence of their work on others. It also looks at how art may provide catharsis and atonement for people who make it.

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If we were Villains Summary

Oliver Marks (31), is serving a ten year prison sentence for murdering his former theatre school friend, Richard Stirling. Although Oliver’s confession, the case’s primary investigator, Detective Colborne, has always felt Oliver was not the murderer. He pays one final visit to Oliver in jail, asking him to give him the truth now that Colborne is about to retire from the force.

Oliver offers to recount his narrative once he gets freed from prison. Oliver’s narration takes place between 1997 & 1998, during the final year of theatre school at Dellecher, an elite conservatory that solely educates Shakespeare.

Oliver & his six pals—Filipa, Richard, Meredith, Wren, Alexander & James—are a tightly connected gang of talented performers. After 4 years of educating themselves in Shakespeare’s numerous plays, they embody the exact stereotypes in which they are cast on stage. Tall & wide Richard is the ruler, gorgeous, James is the hero, Meredith is the temptress & Oliver is the hero’s closest companion or sidekick. Nevertheless, a change in this familiar group disturbs the group’s power dynamic.

When James is cast as Macbeth in the yearly Halloween play, Richard is reduced to the part of a spirit. This enrages the ambitious Richard, who becomes angry & bitter. Parallel to the Macbeth sessions, the companions are rehearsing Julius Caesar, with Richard in the title role. Richard’s demeanour during Caesar practise becomes progressively obnoxious. Richard almost drowns James after the Macbeth performance, despite his assertions of innocence. The others save James and chide Richard, but they all agree to keep the incident hidden from their professors.

Despite his apology, Richard’s behaviour worsens. Oliver feels protective of Richard’s girlfriend, Meredith, even as he refuses to admit his feelings for James. When James, Alexander & Oliver learn about Richard’s aggression, they deal to assault him on stage during a performance of Caesar. The show is a big success. Richard assaults Meredith at the after-party because he is jealous of her interacting with another male.

Oliver leads Meredith away & they make love in her chamber, ignoring Richard, who runs out into the woods with a bottle of liquor. On Wren’s request, James follows him; during the ensuing altercation, James strikes Richard in the head with a boat hook. Richard drowns in the lake. James returns to the castle, assuming he is dead. Filipa notices his bloodstained clothes, realises what he has done, and hides it.

The following day, the pals discover Richard in the sea, barely alive. James attempts to save him, but his buddies believe that if he lives, he would be even more violent to them. During the murder inquiry, the pals agree to state that they discovered Richard dead in the sea. Colborne initially believes the death was unintentional but he senses there is more to the story. Meanwhile, due to a family crisis, Oliver is unable to continue his education at Dellecher. As a work-study scholarship, the faculty allows him to clean the castle, which he performs in secret, humiliated. 

Following Thanksgiving, everyone begins working on scenes for Romeo & Juliet for the yearly Christmas masque. James plays Romeo, while Oliver plays the hero’s companion Benvolio. James’s behaviour becomes more highly secretive. Tormented by his guilt, he frequently vanishes from the castle for extended periods of time. Oliver & Meredith start dating, much to the dismay of their classmates from previous years.

The Romeo & Juliet masque was a success & the school’s emphasis is now focused on the spring play, King Lear. Oliver portrays Edmund’s half-brother, the aristocratic Edgar, while James plays the play’s adversary, Edmund. James begins to embody Edmund’s rage, frequently becoming hostile against Oliver during practise. Oliver finds a burned piece of bloodied cloth in a fireplace and hides it, believing it is evidence related to Richard’s death. Oliver begins to suspect that the death was perpetrated by someone in their organisation. 

The group is still dissolving as a result of their pain and the curriculum’s demands. Meredith eventually realises James is to blame for Richard’s murder and informs Colborne of her concerns. The bloodied boat hook is discovered in James’ mattress by Oliver. He approaches James, who admits to the crime. Colborne arrives at a Romeo and Juliet performance to arrest James, but Oliver, motivated by his love for James, takes the blame. Oliver is sent to jail when Meredith refuses to provide evidence at his trial.

In the moment, Oliver discovers that James committed suicide 4 years earlier. Worried, he pays a visit to Meredith, now a well-known TV performer & moves in with her. One day, Filipa delivers him two letters discovered in James’s vehicle near the lake where he committed suicide. The first is a Pericles passage addressed to Oliver. Oliver realises the passage is code for James begging for his assistance. He investigates James’s death & learns that his body was never recovered. The novel finishes with the tantalising possibility that James is still alive.

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If we were Villains Synopsis

M.L. Rio’s debut novel “If We Were Villains” follows seven theatrical students at a prestigious arts college as they become entangled in a web of love, envy and betrayal.

The story follows the students as they manage their relationships, objectives and the consequences of their actions against the backdrop of Shakespearean plays.

The plot dives into topics like obsession, commitment, and the blurring of the lines between art and reality.

About the Author-M. L. RioIf

Full NameMelanie Rio
OccupationAuthor, Educator
Date of BirthNot publicly available
Place of BirthMiami
Education-MA in Shakespeare studies from King’s College London and Shakespeare’s Globe
-PhD in English literature from the University of Maryland, College Park
Notable Works“If We Were Villains”

If we were Villains FAQs

Is If We Were Villains part of a series?

No, If We Were Villains is a standalone novel and not part of a series.

Is If We Were Villains a dark academia book?

Yes, If We Were Villains is a dark academia book that explores the themes of love, betrayal and obsession in a Shakespearean setting.

Who is LGBT in If We Were Villains?

LGBTQ+ characters in “If We Were Villains”: Oliver, Meredith, Alexander and Richard. Their sexualities and identities are explored throughout the novel.

Is If We Were Villains a romance?

No, If We Were Villains is not a romance. It is a mystery novel with elements of thriller and literary fiction.

Is it worth reading If We Were Villains?

Yes, If We Were Villains is worth reading for those who enjoy Shakespearean themes, mystery and complex characters.

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