"The Thriller I Couldn't Put Down!" says Avid Romance Reader
“Houses remember.” —The Villa
On a recent travel day that started way too early for this night owl, Rachel Hawkin’s latest release The Villawas my companion for both my flights. As a proclaimed romance reader, it takes respect for an author, coupled with an incredible blurb and an even better premise for me to even consider grabbing a thriller. After reading the blurb for The Villa, it was an absolute no-brainer to read. I grabbed both an e-book and a physical copy and have zero regrets.
For fans of Mary Shelley, true crime junkies, and those of you who are just like me and are absolutely addicted to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, The Villa combines a multitude of pop culture elements and whisks you away to a sun-baked Villa in Orvieto, Italy where our story takes place.
“Besides,” Chess adds now, guiding me farther into the house, “people get murdered in all kinds of houses, so why not gorgeous villas?”—The Villa
The Villa spoke directly to the writer that lives within me. Upon first introduction, Emily is at odds with her “best friend” since grade school. We all know this singular type of person that Chess Chandler embodies: the one who seemingly never had it together until one day they inexplicably have it all. Emily is a successful cozy mystery writer, which is an acclaim all on its own. After fighting an illness that only she takes seriously, Emily’s husband leaves her and then has the audacity to demand rights in the form of money to her bestselling book series. Nothing like kicking a girl when she’s down. It’s when Chess proposes that she and Emily spend the summer at the infamous Villa Aestas in Italy aka the “Murder House” according to Emily to work on their respective books in order to meet their looming deadlines.
This is when the timeline flips. While Emily and Chess are in Italy, readers meet the other notable guests of the Villa from the sex and drug haze of the 1970’s. Sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll were never truer when Mari Godwick and her lover Pierce Sheldon, her stepsister Lara Larchmont, go to Italy for the summer upon the invitation of fellow rock sensation, Noel Gordon, and one shy man named Johnnie who is seemingly just a supplier of whatever will make the magic of music happen for both Noel and Pierce.
“People are never just gone, after all. There are always marks, always signs.” —The Villa
Both timelines unfold hand in hand. Chess and Emily are engrossed by the idea of the murders that happened during that infamous summer in the 70’s, and Emily increasingly feels like she cannot trust her mercurial friend. Meanwhile, Mari, Lara, Pierce, and Noel become tangled up in the magic of the Villa. Told through news articles, through Mari’s POV, and through snippets of both Mari’s novel Lilith Rising as well as Lara’s album Aestas, readers begin to piece together what exactly befell the Villa that summer.
I couldn’t put The Villa down. The similarities of Emily and Mari were so well-written, and the doubts that each of them had with whom they shared the Villa with mirrored each other in a way that gave me chills. There were twists I didn’t see coming, and I was gob-smacked by the ending. The Villa by Rachel Hawkins is a story that deserves a cinematic representation for sure. I definitely don’t want to give away any of the details that I loved the most, so I’ll just finish by telling you that The Villa is easily one of the top reads of the year for me.
Jes is a self-proclaimed bookworm, who recently moved from the PNW back to the Midwest. When her nose isn’t in a book, she’s spending time with her husband, two kids, and her three fur babies, or exploring the globe. She also firmly believes that you should start the day with coffee, and end the day in bed with a good book.