Down The Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny Book Review

Holly Madison’s memoir, Down The Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny, takes us into what appeared to have been a glamorous world from the outside looking in. Most of us know Holly Madison previously as the #1 girlfriend of the world’s most notorious boyfriend, Hugh Hefner or “Hef.” A show Holly starred in called The Girls Next Door documented Holly’s life as well as the lives of Hef’s two other girlfriends, Bridget and Kendra. The show gave us a glimpse of what life was like for the girls living in the magical Playboy Mansion, where it seemed dreams always came true. After being a fan of the show for more than half of my life, reading Holly’s book gave me a serious reality check. Although Holly had an unforgettable time at the mansion, things weren’t all fun and games -- sometimes they were the complete opposite.

Left to right: Kendra Wilkinson, Bridget Marquardt, Holly Madison.

Holly begins her story by narrating her inner thoughts in the year 2002, when she was contemplating suicide not long after she had moved into the mansion. This was the first of many surprises Holly’s book had in store for me. As I kept reading, I could 100% understand why Holly was depressed. When she had first moved in, she was among 6 other girlfriends (the “Mean Girls”), making her girlfriend #7! None of the girls welcomed her, and if you read the book, Holly explains that she moved into the mansion because she was on the verge of homelessness. It wasn’t long until Holly made it to the top and became Hef’s #1 girlriend, but that caused even more drama. The amount of cattiness that poor 22 year old had to go through sounded like a nightmare. Being 20 years old right now, I couldn’t help but try to put myself in her shoes (which proved difficult). I couldn’t help but feel bad for how much I had adored Playboy, and even Hef. 

To be fair, I need to go a little into detail about Hugh Hefner. Holly explains that he thrived off of attention, and often did that by trying to stir the pot and cause tension between the girlfriends. There are tons of different instances in the book, too many to even begin to explain. This caught me off guard. Hef had seemed like such a nice old man on The Girls Next Door. I hadn’t imagined him to be such a perpetrator. That was one more surprise. Hef told Holly she wasn’t beautiful enough to be in Playboy or she didn’t have “the playmate look.” This was just one of his tactics to diminish Holly’s self-esteem. Looking back on episodes of The Girls Next Door now, one thing is very clear to me. Even though the show was essentially about Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends, to Hef, it was about him. In his mind people were watching for him, and of course he had control of what aired on TV. He saw his girlfriends as nothing more than replaceable blondes, which we later find out in the book is not the case when he brings in three new girlfriends and replaces the original girls next door. That didn’t turn out too well, because the show was cancelled after only a few episodes had aired and gotten half the ratings the original girls next door had.

It’s not until about the middle of the book that the “Mean Girls” got the boot, and it was just Hef and his trio, Holly, Bridget, and Kendra. This is the group that became the stars of The Girls Next Door, which turned out to be a hit series. I could not wait to get past all the catty drama in the beginning of the book, and of course being a fan of The Girls Next Door I thought to myself, “thank God Kendra came along and it all got better.” Turns out, that wasn’t what happened. Although they maintained a friendship in the mansion, Holly and Kendra had a fallout in 2012 and haven’t spoken since. 

Holly spent 7 years of her life at the mansion devoted to Hef. Something I should mention is that Holly convinced herself she was in love with him, and that was basically her coping mechanism. She wanted it to be true love, so she made it “true love.” She never had any side boyfriends like past girlfriends did, but she knew what she had to do eventually. When Bridget and Kendra finally left on their own terms, Holly realized she needed to get out of there if she wanted to make something of herself. So, she did.

Holly went on to achieve a ton on her own! She became a contestant on Dancing with the Stars, and even had her own residency in Las Vegas called “Peepshow!” This led her to eventually get her own show on the E! Network, Holly’s World. After reading about the things she had achieved after being basically branded by Playboy all those years, I felt proud of her and also inspired. People doubted her abilities yet she went out there and proved everyone wrong. I think her story is inspiring to all women, but especially those who may be in unhealthy relationships. It took Holly a lot of courage to finally leave, and when she did she never looked back. 

Holly Madison for Holly's World.​

I highly recommend this book, regardless of if you have even seen The Girls Next Door. Holly’s story is truly a story like no other, there is SO much stuff that I wasn’t able to even touch on. There are plenty of risqué details throughout the story, but I read it simply because I wanted to hear her experience. Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny is a #1 New York Times Bestseller, and for good reason.