AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

Publication Date: January 3, 2023
Format: Audio
Genre:  Psychological Thriller
Narrators: Julia Wheelan, Kimberly M Wetherall, Shiromi Arserio

Publisher: MacMillan Audio
 7 hours 57 min
Buy: Kindle | Audio


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.


Set in two time periods two sets of women's lives change dramatically after staying at a villa in Italy.

I loved how you got to see the similarities in the two stories, and the tension and mystery surrounding what was happening in both kept this book moving.  

In both stories I feel that the events at the villa may have helped the women but also trapped them in a way maybe the more present day one more than the one set in the past. 

In the past both Mari and her step-sister Lara have had a relationship with the same married man.  Now Lara has moved on and in a relationship with another older married man. Mari and Lara have always had a  competitive relationship usually around men. First their father then it moved on to lovers. 

Emily and Chess have had a similar rivalry.  Both writers, Emily writes cozy mysteries and Chess has attained national status as a self help guru. Emily covets Chess's life and Chess believes that Emily is the one that has it all. 

Emily has been dealing with the fall out of a messy divorce and Chess invites her to spend the summer at a Villa in Italy to hopefully get her writing juices flowing again.  However there seems to be some secrets and mistrust between the two long time friends that culminates in a tragic situation.

Both stories centered around how the men in their lives manipulated and ultimately were the catalyst for their success. But I also see it as a story of how toxic women can be toward each other and how those toxic relationships grow and cultivate. It's a fascinating story.  Definitely worth the read. 

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