2017 Book #26 – If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

51jEpw+Dl0L._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_Title: If We Were Villains
Author: M.L. Rio
Date finished: 3/26/17
Genre: Fiction, suspense
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Pages in book: 354
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse NOTE:I received this book for free from BookBrowse in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.
As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.
Intelligent, thrilling, and richly detailed, If We Were Villains is a captivating story of the enduring power and passion of words.

My rating:  4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of a group of fourth year theater students attending Dellecher Classical Conservatory, an elite college for the arts that has a slightly unorthodox approach to advancement. Each year only certain students are allowed to advance to the next year’s level, which for this particular story resulted in a group of 7 unusually close senior year theater students. In this particular group, the line between friend and enemy is continually blurred and tensions reach new heights. The story is narrated by one of these seven students, Oliver Marks, who when we first meet him is at the end of his 10 year prison sentence. We meet him as he begins to tell the story of what actually happened a decade ago to Detective Colborne, his arresting officer. Colborne has been haunted by this case the past ten years because he never believed that Oliver was actually the killer. And as the story of that year unfolds, there are many layers to be peeled back before the truth can be uncovered. There are heroes and damsels, tragedy and comedy, lovers and friends. And in the end, there is more than one villain.
Overall I really liked this book a lot. I thought it was so different and so interesting. As the theater student’s curriculum centers mostly around Shakespeare, there were many different passages from his various works woven into the story line and the conversations, and I just loved it. You could feel how young the group of them were, even though they were dealing with such intense adult problems. And Oliver was perhaps the most innocent of them all, and seeing the story through his eyes added that extra layer of naivete. After the murder Oliver and his remaining friends fall to pieces, each of them dealing with their own feelings of guilt and responsibility in different ways. Centered within Oliver’s story is his best friend, James, and his love interest, Meredith. The roles here even are oftentimes blurred, as Oliver’s feelings for James are not so easily categorized into the label of “friends.” That was one of the things I loved most about this book was how well it portrayed that love and hate are on the same spectrum of emotion, and if you feel one it is very easily turned to the other side of the spectrum when a person is pushed to their limit. I also thought the character development in this novel was really well done, I could feel everything that Oliver felt with such strength that I felt sucked into the story itself. The story was heart-warming and heart-breaking all in one and while I was a little surprised at the ending I really just enjoyed this book so much. I would most definitely recommend and I can’t wait to see more from this author in the future!

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This is the coat of arms for Dellecher Classical Conservatory mentioned in the novel. I found this picture on the author’s website and thought it was a neat addition!!

The bottom line: I really liked this book a lot. I loved that quotes from Shakespeare’s plays were interwoven so skillfully throughout the text and I loved the strength of emotions portrayed by all the characters in the book.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2016 Book #53 – Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt

51JCXeLmnuL._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Sweetest Scoundrel
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Date finished: 5/27/16
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: November 24, 2015
Pages in book: 328
Stand alone or series: #9 in the Maiden Lane series
Where I got the book from: Purchased

Blurb from the cover:

SHE’S TAKING CHARGE
Prim, proper, and thrifty, Eve Dinwoody is all business when it comes to protecting her brother’s investment. But when she agrees to control the purse strings of London’s premier pleasure garden, Harte’s Folly, she finds herself butting heads with an infuriating scoundrel who can’t be controlled.
HE’S RUNNING THE SHOW
Bawdy and bold, Asa Makepeace doesn’t have time for a penny-pinching prude like Eve. As the garden’s larger-than-life owner, he’s already dealing with self-centered sopranos and temperamental tenors. He’s not about to let an aristocratic woman boss him around . . . no matter how enticing she is.
BUT LOVE CONQUERS ALL
In spite of her lack of theatrical experience-and her fiery clashes with Asa-Eve is determined to turn Harte’s Folly into a smashing success. But the harder she tries to manage the stubborn rake, the harder it is to ignore his seductive charm and raw magnetism. There’s no denying the smoldering fire between them-and trying to put it out would be the greatest folly of all . . .

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I hadn’t read this book yet even though it was released last year, and this is one of the series that I usually try to stay up to date on. But I was approved for the next book in the Maiden Lane series on NetGalley so I decided to catch up before reading the newest release, out this next Tuesday May 31st! This book is about Eve Dinwoody, sister to the wicked Duke of Montgomery. The Duke of Montgomery has been a semi-villanous character in the last few novels in the series, though he doesn’t really seem truly evil. His actions towards his half-sister show that the Duke of Montgomery is in fact soft-hearted. Eve is acting as her brother’s “man-of-business” while he’s exiled to the Continent. Because of this, she is put in direct contact with Asa Makepeace, also known as Mr. Harte and the owner of Harte’s Folly, a theatre and pleasure gardens. At first meeting, Asa doesn’t find Eve appealing at all but the more he gets to know her, the more he falls for her.
Overall I liked this book a lot. When Asa was first introduced, I didn’t think there was going to be any way he could redeem himself as a character. I was pleasantly surprised in that I actually enjoyed his surly attitude by the end of the book and found his personality endearing. And Eve as a heroine was wonderful, she inspires empathy from the reader but at the same time we’re not encouraged to pity her since she really is a strong person. You can feel the tension between Eve and Asa coming off the pages and there are some pretty steamy scenes between these two. And I thought it was great that a lot of the characters from previous books were brought back in this book for a variety of scenes. I think that this book did a really great job of setting the stage for the next book, The Duke of Sin, which features the awful Duke of Montgomery. I find that to be a prevailing characteristic in some of Hoyt’s novels in that the heroes aren’t always a paragon of gentlemanly ways and honor. They’re a little crude and rough around the edges but she still gets you to fall for them all the same. There aren’t many authors who attempt that, let alone succeed so continuously. I’m looking forward to the next book, which by the time I post this I’ll have already read!

The bottom line: This was a good book and a great addition to the series. Hoyt does a great job of making the heroes rough around the edges but also endearing. I would definitely recommend this one!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page