Thursday, December 29, 2022

ARC Review: The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

The Villa

Rachel Hawkins
Publication: St. Martin's Press (January 3, 2023)

Description: From New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins comes a deliciously wicked gothic suspense, set at an Italian villa with a dark history, for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware.

As kids, Emily and Chess were inseparable. But by their 30s, their bond has been strained by the demands of their adult lives. So when Chess suggests a girls trip to Italy, Emily jumps at the chance to reconnect with her best friend.

Villa Aestas in Orvieto is a high-end holiday home now, but in 1974, it was known as Villa Rosato, and rented for the summer by a notorious rock star, Noel Gordon. In an attempt to reignite his creative spark, Noel invites up-and-coming musician, Pierce Sheldon to join him, as well as Pierce’s girlfriend, Mari, and her stepsister, Lara. But he also sets in motion a chain of events that leads to Mari writing one of the greatest horror novels of all time, Lara composing a platinum album––and ends in Pierce’s brutal murder.

As Emily digs into the villa’s complicated history, she begins to think there might be more to the story of that fateful summer in 1974. That perhaps Pierce’s murder wasn’t just a tale of sex, drugs, and rock & roll gone wrong, but that something more sinister might have occurred––and that there might be clues hidden in the now-iconic works that Mari and Lara left behind.

Yet the closer that Emily gets to the truth, the more tension she feels developing between her and Chess. As secrets from the past come to light, equally dangerous betrayals from the present also emerge––and it begins to look like the villa will claim another victim before the summer ends.

Inspired by Fleetwood Mac, the Manson murders, and the infamous summer Percy and Mary Shelley spent with Lord Byron at a Lake Geneva castle––the birthplace of Frankenstein––The Villa welcomes you into its deadly legacy.

My Thoughts: The Villa is a modern Gothic which tells two parallel stories. Emily and Chess have been friends since elementary school, but life has set them on different paths. Emily writes cozy mysteries and Chess is a social media star with a string of successful self-help books. After Emily goes through a mysterious illness which causes her husband to leave her and demand divorce, Chess suggests that they spend the summer in Italy at a villa which was once the scene of a murder.

Paralleling the present story is one written by Mari in 1974 as she recounts her time at the villa which results in her writing one of the best-selling horror novels of all time, her stepsister Lara writing a major Grammy winning album, and her boyfriend Pierce being brutally murdered. 

At first, it looks like the girls were just hangers-on. Noel Gordon was a rock star looking for some new music to revitalize his career. He thinks Pierce might give him the spark he needs. It was a summer of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, but Mari still found the time to write the novel that made her famous with its own parallels to things that happened that summer.

Emily becomes intrigued with Mari's story and the events of the long-ago summer. Her latest cozy gets set off to the side as she begins to write her own version of that story, but Chess has a wrench to throw in. She wants to get away from her self-help image and co-write the story with Emily.

I enjoyed the twists and turns of this wonderful story. It was filled with lots of surprises and parallels and secrets and intrigue. 

Favorite Quote:
This is, she knows, how Pierce thinks. Nothing in life is too hard or too ugly, everything can be worked out. 

But only because the rest of them bear the hard and ugly bits for them.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.


  1. I’m about halfway through this one. It took me a while to get everything sorted. It is like a story within a story within a story! I’m enjoying it, but ready for those twists and turns, A bit slow so far.

  2. I guess I should have kept going.

    Nice review!!


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