The Villa by Rachel Hawkins, 5 Stars

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 Review:

Emily and Chess are childhood besties who both ended up being writers. But the similarities stop there. Emily writes cozy mysteries while Chess is a self-help guru who writes nonfiction empowerment books — think Girl Wash Your Face or Untamed. Up until recently, Emily lived in her hometown with her husband and they talked about having kids. Chess is as single as they come, living the big city glamorous life.

Their friendship is one that has evolved through the years, but as any of us know who have had friends that long, you love them and hate them at times. It’s all a bit more complicated. So when Chess invites Emily to an Italian Villa to write for the summer, Emily is tentative but eventually goes along with it. Yes, Chess can be a lot. But how can she turn down a summer in Italy? Small twist, they’ll be staying in a murder house.

The Villa has major Sharon Tate, Helter Skelter vibes, in the best possible way. Hawkins switches between present day, Emily and Chess, and Mari who stayed at the house in 1974 with a rockstar, her boyfriend and her step sister. This is a good one, for anyone who ever had a slight fascination in celebrity murders and the slightly ominous drug and rock and roll scene of the 1970’s.

Special thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced e-galley in exchange for my honest review. This one is out today, January 3!

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