The Au Pair

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 08 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

** spoiler alert ** I would have rated this book higher before reading the ending. I had liked how the book moved along. The characters were interesting and I liked the descriptions of the big, old estate they were living in. But, the ending was just too unbelievable for me. I will not be suggesting friends read this book.






Spoiler Alert!!

I had presumed the book would end similar to how it did with the nanny and the woman she was working for both being pregnant. What I had not expected was that the nanny didn't know she was pregnant, no one noticed she was pregnant and she delivers healthy twins. I have known people who didn't know they were pregnant and they deliver a healthy baby. I have also known people who carried healthy twins and it was very apparent they were pregnant. That plot twist was just so unbelievable to me.
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Seraphine, her twin brother and her other brother recently buried their father and Seraphine wants to find answers about their family’s secrets. Her mother committed suicide the day she was born but no one seems to want to talk about it with her, though there are rumors floating around. She sets out to uncover the truth, but will the truth set her free or put her in danger? As she searches for answers more questions pop up and it starts to become unclear if her mother really was her mother. The book is narrated by Seraphine and alternates between the past and the present. 

I did find it to be a bit slow in the beginning and the middle but was glad I continued to read all the twists and to find out the real story. It does get a bit confusing at the end and seemed a little unrealistic. But overall I enjoyed the read! 

Thank you to Penguin Publishing Group and Netgalley for an ARC copy of the book.
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Seraphine has always felt out of place in her family and wondered who she really is. She and her twin brother, Danny, were born in summer at their family's estate on the Norfolk coast. Tragically, just hours after their birth, their mother jumped to her death, leaving her husband to raise the twins and their older brother. The family had employed an pair fled, but she left that day and was never seen again. The residents of the small village gossiped and speculated about dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple in the estate whose happiness was shattered on that day. 

As the story opens, Seraphine is bereft about the accidental death of their father. Sorting through his belongings, and anticipating that she will continue residing in the family estate, she discovers a photograph she has never seen before. Although it was taken on the day that she and Danny were born, their mother is holding only one baby in the photo. And she certainly doesn't appear to be a woman contemplating taking her own life on that same day. No one is able to tell whether it is Seraphine or Danny her mother is holding.

In The Au Pair, that photograph sets Seraphine on a journey to discover the truth about her family's history and her place in it. The story is told from two perspectives: Seraphine's current-day investigation, and that of Laura, the mysterious au pair, as events unfolded back in 1991. Author Emma Rous has created a surprisingly compelling story, albeit one that is essentially a soap opera complete with unrequited love, extramarital affairs, secrets maintained for decades, and a predictable villain. The result is a juicy, titillating, enjoyable story that is a quick read perfect for the beach or a snowy weekend day. Rous's characters are surprisingly sympathetic, particularly the confused but earnest Seraphine, who just wants to know the truth about her identity and family members. Laura is equally empathetic, as her story of being a young woman on her own swept into the machinations of a powerful and wealthy family is revealed. And Rous provides a powerful ending to the story which is ultimately satisfying, uplifting, and imbued with a very contemporary message about what it means to be a 21st century family. The Au Pair is an impressive debut novel.
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Fast read "murder or suicide" mystery with engaging plot, but less than satisfying reveals in the end.
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Before I started to read The Au Pair, I had no preconceived notion on the book, as a professional nanny for more than 20 years, I tend to pick up all nanny/au pair/governess books, as they normally make me laugh at authors ideas of nannies, what they do, and how parents and children act around the nanny. So in my naïve belief that this book was the same as others, I started to read, and boy was I in for a huge surprise. 

We start the book on the Norfolk estate of the Mayes family, where eldest brother Edwin and twins Seraphina and Danny are gathered to sort things out 3 weeks after their father dies, who was their last surviving parent. But as they spend the weekend together, Seraphina starts to obsess over the death of their mother and the unanswered questions, like why was there only 1 photo of their mother the day that they were born? which is also the day that she died, and which twin was she holding? Were they really all siblings? Or were the people of the village right, and something bad happened on the day that they were born? And seeing as their grandmother refuses to answer the questions, there is only one person left alive that can tell them the truth! The mysterious Au Pair, that also disappeared the day they were born. 

Oh my goodness this book is simply exquisite! The web of lies, the twists and turns and in the end! Oh my! This book is brilliant! an amazing thriller, that will keep you on the edge of your seat and will leave your mind blown! The authors writing is superb! And for those you with a sharp mind who need a challenge, this book is perfect, it is not an easy mindless read, so if that is the type of book you want, this is not it. 

Right from the get-go, this book hit the nail on the head with how families tend to treat their employees, and it also showed how lonely the children tend to be and how they crave attention, especially from the parents that are too busy for them. But even then this book was so much more than the. The Au Pair was not some foreign exchange person, but a young girl with a painful past, sorely taken advantage of.  

And Seraphina's character is fantastic! From being made to feel crazy, to find out the truth, you cannot help but feel sorry for the girl, but by the end out can tell she is SO much stronger than at the beginning. And while Edwin and Danny's characters are also important to the storyline, I cannot say I was too invested in their character. 

Overall The Au Pair is an outstanding book and one that I totally recommend to everyone.
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This was a good one, every time I thought I had it figured out it took a turn in a different direction. The characters are likable and unlikable and you will judge some of their choices well honestly most of their choices! I don't want to spoil anything but this one really lived up to the hype. I will say that in the end I still think some DNA test were in order!

Narration by Elizabeth Sastre and Nicola Barber was well done and brought the 2 storylines to life.

I will be recommending this one and also think it would make a good book club book I think the discussion would be worthy.

I also bought this for our library.
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Hmmm, not positive yet how to review this one. This was a very different read for me and not at all what I was expecting. Twins Serephine and Danny lost their mother to suicide when she jumped off of seaside cliffs right after they were born. Then their older brother’s au pair ran away, leaving their family’s estate. Fast-forward twenty-five years and their father has died. Serephine finds a photo with her parents, her older brother, and one newborn infant that is dated the day that she and Danny were born. So why only one baby? Told from past and present points of view from Laura, the au pair, and Serephine, the story follows Serephine’s journey into finding out about her past and her family.

So, here’s what I enjoyed about this novel. I liked the chapters told from Laura’s point of view and found her an interesting narrator. The author did a fantastic job of building suspense as we learned more from Laura and what in the world had gone on within this family. I also found the overall storyline and plot unique in a time where I feel like I read different versions of the same story over and over. Mostly, I applaud the author’s writing style, especially with this being her debut novel. There is depth to the characters and wonderful imagery that really propelled me forward in this novel.

Oh – the cover! I fell in love with the cover immediately! 

So what’s not to like? Basically, this just isn’t my style of novel. From the description, I was expecting a suspense/thriller and was unprepared for some of the more fantastical elements that came into play. I found myself confused (several times) and when I wasn’t confused I was struggling with buying into some of the things that unfolded. And unfortunately, I just didn’t like Serephine. I’m trying to find the right words to justify that statement, but for lack of better words, her character was simply annoying. I struggled to care about her feelings of not belonging and her sudden and rash shift between grieving for her father and immediately needing to investigate the photograph. 

Regardless, this is a well-written novel that I’m sure many people will love, and based on reviews, have already read and loved. Although I struggled with certain elements of the plot, I still found myself intrigued enough to continue reading and reach the conclusion of the novel. 

*Thanks to Berkley and NetGalley for providing this review copy in exchange for my honest review!
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The Au Pair was a really enjoyable read for me! I literally had no clue where the story would go and the author kept me guessing up until the very last pages. The alternating chapters worked very well for the story to get a glimpse into Seraphine's life now and the past mysteries surrounding her family. I connected with Seraphine although I wasn't a huge fan of Laura, the au pair who was telling the story of her past and her connection to the Mayes family. The pace was a little slow at times, but since it's a domestic drama, I did feel I needed background on all characters for the plot to make sense. The ending was way out there and something I can't imagine anyone guessing, but I appreciated the shock of the twist. My rating: 4.5/5 Heartbreaking Stars!

Review posted on Goodreads and Amazon
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In the Norfolk countryside stands Summerbourne, an estate that sits on the edge of the sea. With a long history of bad luck coming to each resident of the estate, the surrounding villagers pass stories like legends among each other. The latest tragedy — the death of Dominic Mayes — stirs up stories and secrets that someone will kill to keep hidden. 

Seraphine Mayes, one half of what the villagers call the Summerbourne Sprites, returns to Summerbourne after the death of her father and starts to go through his things. Her future is unsure: what will happen to this house that she’s called home her entire life? Will the house go to her twin brother Danny? But when she discovers a picture in her father’s belongings of her mother, father, brother, grandma, and one newborn, not two, Seraphine begins to question whether or not she belongs in Summerbourne after all.

What begins as a family mystery soon develops into Seraphine’s quest to understand who she is and her place in a world where neither of her parents are alive. Her mother killed herself the day Seraphine and Danny were born. Tragedy and loss are nothing new to her. Yet, something about the picture she found brings up doubts she’s always had about whether or not she actually belonged in this family. That maybe all of the village stories about something strange happening the day she and her brother were born are more than just alcohol-fueled scary stories.

But the closer Seraphine gets to the truth, the more people she puts in danger as someone works hard to try to keep the truth a secret forever.


Told from Seraphine’s point of view from the present, and the au pair’s point of view in the past, The Au Pair is a gothic drama rich with scandal and suspense. While some elements of the story were very familiar to domestic thriller fans, I was kept riveted by Rous’s storytelling. A definite must-read for thriller and suspense fans.
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An enthralling read! The storyline kept me engaged right up to the very end. Sir Walter Scott's famous line from "Marmion" could easily describe this story, because deception is at the heart of it in just about every relationship. Thanks to both the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this.  #TheAuPair #NetGalley
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I've been requesting and reading an absurd about of books from Berkley / Berkley Romance lately. I can't stop myself. EVERYTHING they put out has an adorable or intriguing premise, a cute cover, and/or a lot of buzz. I was initially interested in THE AU PAIR but held off on requesting it (somehow)... then I saw Cristina's review. I don't have a lot of success with mystery/thrillers in the sense that I don't always rate them highly. I love reading them, but my expectations are always higher than reality.

I actually enjoyed a somewhat mysterious (more contemporary-ish, but you get the point) book earlier this year that was also set in England AND involved some kind of castle/huge house... so this was a plus for me. Clearly I have a type when it comes to this genre.

The story alternates between Laura, the au pair, in 1992 and Seraphine, the daughter, in 2017. Seraphine feels that something fishy was happening in her family and sets out to see what really happened on the day she was born. The format definitely kept me guessing as it went back and forth in time between chapters.

There were some parts of the story that felt underdeveloped to me - certain relationships or threads that dropped off prematurely and weren't talked about quite as much as I would have expected. [spoiler]Laura has sex with the father, Dominic, and they all seem to move on as normal. I'm not saying she needed to cling to him and become obsessed with him after, but it was almost like this element of the story was dropped so half of the reveal later would be more impactful... like the author figured that the reader would forget and be more surprised.[/spoiler] The family was well-developed, for the most part, and I was always interested in seeing her brothers' opinions on things as she uncovered them.

I don't know why I do this to myself but I ALWAYS expect the most insane reveal of all time, or like a million twists on the way to the reveal. I was somewhat underwhelmed by this one because of my too-high-mystery-expectations. I think I also started to pick up some pieces a little too early to be super duper surprised and shocked. I really enjoyed the reading experience though, so I'd still recommend this one if the premise sounds interesting to you.
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In today’s over saturated world of mediocre thrillers, it can be hard to find one that simultaneously manages to surprise me and that’s well written. So many thriller novels I actually find work better for me in a movie format, so I’m always on a hunt for a solidly written mystery/thriller that manages to create an unsettling, atmospheric world on the page. That’s exactly what I experienced with The Au Pair to my delight, and found myself completely immersed in a mystery that not only enveloped me in its setting, but actually had an ending that I didn’t foresee in advance.

The Au Pair is a mystery told in a dual timeline story, switching back and forth between Laura, an au pair for a wealthy British family at their country mansion, and Seraphine, a daughter from the same family who wasn’t watched by Laura but who is determined to find out the truth about her family’s shady past after the death of her father. Seraphine believes the family’s previous au pair, Laura, may know more than she’s letting on about her family’s history (is she adopted, why did her mother commit suicide hours after giving birth, etc.) Of course, this leads to Seraphine making bad, impulsive decisions to try and trick Laura into meeting with her and she’s like NOPE and does the classic “never speak to me again” while also receiving a threatening letter about keeping quiet about the events of Summerbourne all those years ago which of course just makes Seraphine dig deeper into the tragic past of her family’s estate.

While I enjoyed both narrators, I was especially fond of Laura’s timeline and seeing the Summerbourne estate at the height of its infamy when it was bustling with drama and intrigue. Laura, a single child from a middle class family in London, becomes so entangled and entrenched in her posh employer’s family dramas and her journey into becoming unhealthily enmeshed in the family is both believable and compelling. I was also particularly fascinated by the fact that she was such a neutral character, who I neither liked nor disliked and who was both a good person (she was wonderful with Edwin, her toddler charge) and who also made really terrible decisions at times. She was a character who was perfect as the protagonist in a mystery because her neutral personality made it hard to guess her motivations and how she would respond and react to the twists and turns in the narrative.

My absolute favorite thing about the book, however, was the atmospheric setting. Summerbourne itself felt like a character, a beautiful yet slightly eerie house set on the cliffs in the countryside that’s been the site of so many tragic events, and yet is such a defining and magnetic force for both the family and the community. It’s sprawling grounds, dangerously rocky beach and sense of grandeur slightly gone to seed was a deeply beautiful and yet unsettling backdrop for the mystery, and it felt like the mansion itself was playing a role in keeping secrets and pushing the characters into their questionable decisions. I also liked the slight fairytale esque thread throughout the narrative due to the lore that surrounds the myth of the Summerbourne twins, and the curse that plagues them and the rumors of sprites and changelings. It lends itself to the overall unsettling and anxiety inducing feeling I had throughout reading the entire novel which is a great feeling when reading a mystery novel!

Obviously when reviewing a mystery/thriller I can’t speak too much to the plot details or twists, but I will say that I didn’t guess the ending or the antagonist which is so refreshing! The ending did however get a little far fetched at the end to tie all of the plot threads together (it was definitely possible, just not very probably) however I did like how the big reveal didn’t fall all on one character but rather it was the culmination of several character’s motives and actions.

Overall: The Au Pair is one of the best mystery stories I’ve read in a while. It’s cleverly crafted with all of the family entanglements and every character was complex. While the ending was a little far-fetched and convenient, I overall enjoyed the twists and adored the setting, and highly recommend The Au Pair to readers who love slow burn unsettling thrillers.
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Seraphine recently lost her father in a tragic accident. When cleaning out his belongings from their home, Summerbourne, she finds a long lost picture she had never seen before. In it is her mother, Ruth, and her father, Domenic, holding a new born baby. It was taken the day she was born but where is her twin brother Danny? Why wouldn't all four of them be in the picture? And why did her mother throw herself off the cliffs into the sea below only hours after their birth?
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For the entirety of their lives, Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother, Danny, have been known as the Summerbourne sprites. Born in the middle of summer at their wealthy family’s estate on the Norfolk coast, the twins’ arrival became the talk of the town when their mother threw herself off the cliffs shortly after their birth. As in any small town, rumors began to circulate, and soon stories of changelings, witches and something “not quite right” with the twins are woven into the mythos of the coastal town.

Now 25 and mourning the recent death of her father, Seraphine has moved into Summerbourne and is ready to finally ask what happened that fateful summer and learn the truth behind the colorful rumors. Combining domestic noir and gothic horror, Emma Rous’ THE AU PAIR is an atmospheric journey through shocking twists, horrifying secrets and the complicated tangle of dysfunctional family dynamics.

The novel is told in alternating chapters from the points of view of 25-year-old Seraphine and, over two decades earlier, the titular au pair, 19-year-old Laura. When we meet Seraphine, she is going through her father’s belongings when she discovers a family portrait taken on the day she and Danny were born. There is one glaring issue with the photo: their smiling, happy mother is holding only one baby. For years Seraphine has struggled with the feeling that she does not belong. She looks nothing like her twin, and the townspeople’s penchant for telling fantastical stories about their birth does nothing to assuage her fears that perhaps she is not truly a Mayes after all. With her parents gone and her grandmother refusing to discuss her mother, Seraphine decides to track down the one other person who was there that tragic day: Laura.

Meanwhile, in the past, we watch as Laura joins the intimidating Mayes family to watch over their young son, Edwin. She learns that Edwin was originally a twin himself, but that his brother died tragically. It seems that twins do not do well at Summerbourne, though whether this is due to coincidence or foul play is unclear. As Laura comes to adore Edwin and grow close to his parents, Ruth and Dominic, and their best friend, Alex, she finds herself embroiled in their dysfunctional relationships, which seem to be piloted by Ruth’s emotional highs and lows. Their isolation at the family estate heightens the drama, and the knowledge that Ruth’s death is imminent adds a fast-paced element of thrill to the narrative, even during the family’s lazy summer days at the beach.

As Seraphine comes closer to finding Laura, she begins to receive threatening messages at Summerbourne warning her to stop asking questions before it’s too late. This ominous tone is in direct contrast to the seemingly idyllic summer that Laura spends at the estate, prompting the reader to ask what really happened to the Mayes family and what it means for Seraphine today.

In terms of characters, I believe that readers will really enjoy Laura. Her voice is intelligent, yet a bit naïve, and her life at Summerbourne is one of the more compelling elements of THE AU PAIR. I often found myself racing through Seraphine’s chapters to get back to the past to reunite with Laura and Edwin. Their isolation from both the main town and the other characters really throws them in sharp perspective and highlights the eerie atmosphere that is present throughout the story. These scenes reminded me most of V. C. Andrews’ writing, to which the novel has been compared. It is clear from these passages that Rous writes beautifully, and I would love to see her explore similar characters and settings in the future.

THE AU PAIR is, without a doubt, a very well-written novel. Rous toys with her readers’ minds expertly, and her ability to juggle two perspectives over two timelines demonstrates a talent for pacing and big reveals. That said, I believe that whether or not you will love or hate this book depends very much on your willingness to suspend your disbelief at some of the most important twists. Rous has crafted an intriguing and very twisty story, but its originality is weighed down a bit by the very dramatic (and perhaps too unbelievable) ending.

In terms of sheer pleasure and thrill, THE AU PAIR is a very good read, and one that I would easily recommend to thriller lovers, but I would love to see Rous pare down her plot points in future works and focus more on one big reveal. Her wonderful characters and distinctive settings deserve it.
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I read for fun/escapism, and I thought this would be a fluffy domestic thriller, not something I needed a flow chart to figure out by the end. Not even trashy enough to justify the VC Andrews comparisons.
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A great story and a great ending I thought I had it figured out but I did not.. the only thing I didn’t like was the way Ruth was portrayed.. I get the reason I understand the story behind it but I think that there could have been more details of the reasons behind it. Besides that the writing was good the plot was good and I will definitely read more from this author
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Seraphine Mayes has long wondered why she looks different from her twin brother Danny and their older brother Edwin, and looks for answers in Emma Rous' twisty The Au Pair (Penguin Berkley, digital galley). An old photo of her mother, who fell to her death from the Norfolk cliffs shortly after Seraphine and Danny were born, shows her mother holding a single newborn. The picture was taken by Edwin's young au pair at the time, Lauren Silviera. As Seraphine searches for Lauren in the present, the narrative alternates with Lauren's story in the past. Threatening notes, secret lovers, family quarrels and village gossip of changelings contribute to the murky puzzle. You'll have to decide if the solution -- given the outlandish premise -- makes sense.
from On a Clear Day I Can Read Forever

3.5 stars
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THE AU PAIR is a captivating and enthralling mystery which is told from alternating viewpoints, that of Laura Silveira and Seraphine Mayes, and unfolds over two decades.

Laura is just eighteen years old when she comes to Summerbourne to work for the Mayes family as au pair to their young son, Edwin.  Laura is fond of her charge, and her employers are kind and generous, making for an ideal situation.  When Mrs. Mayes (Ruth) becomes pregnant, her husband (Dominic) is overjoyed.  So why, on the very day that Ruth gives birth, would Laura flee this ideal position?

Seraphine (Seph) and her twin brother, Danny, were the babies born to Ruth on the day Laura fled Summerbourne over twenty years ago.  The Mayes family has been dealt tragedy after tragedy.  Ruth committed suicide the very day the twins were born, and now Dominic has died.  Seph has never resembled her brothers, and has felt somewhat of an outsider.  After Dominic’s death, she finds a picture of her mother, taken on the day of her birth, but holding only one baby, and looking very happy, not like a woman about to end her own life.

Why is there only one baby in the picture?  Why would a woman looking so happy take her own life hours later?  Seph decides she needs to track down the au pair, Laura, to find out what light she can shed on these mysteries.  Laura doesn’t want to be found, however, leaving Seph more confused than ever.

Rumors have swirled about the Mayes family, and innuendos hint at something not quite as it should be regarding the twins’ birth.  The story as told from Laura’s point of view in the past, and Seph’s search for answers in the present makes for a page turner that was hard to put down.  Murder, lies, infidelity, and deception all play a role in the mystery, which will truly shake up the world of so many, as long held secrets are revealed.  I found THE AU PAIR to be a fascinating and compelling read, which I believe will please readers who love a good, twisty suspense novel.
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This is described as a domestic family psychological thriller; in my opinion, this description let it down, because there is very little thrilling about it. Instead, it’s a slow-burn, simmering mystery that ties together two separate yet deeply interconnected timelines and stories. The first story is an au pair’s, and the second is later in time, and is the story of a girl trying to put the pieces of her past together. I thought this book built tension quite well; however, the characters felt flat and uninteresting. The ultimate reveal was predictable and anti-climactic. I would recommend it for people who enjoyed We Were Liars, and are looking for an adult mystery to dive into.
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Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother, Danny, were born in the middle of summer on their family’s coastal estate, Summerbourne. Throughout the years rumors have swirled about the family and the twins. Whispers around town were that the family was never able to successfully have twins in their family because over the years one twin had always died tragically. Seraphine and Danny grew up with amidst the gossip and their own family tragedy. Their mother had thrown herself from the cliffs behind their house on the day they were born.

Now into their adult life and mourning the recent loss of their father, Seraphine can’t shake the stories she has heard all her life. Does she not belong to this family? With the discovery of a photo from the day of her birth showing her mother only holding one infant, Seraphine’s doubts continue to overtake her mind. There is no one in her immediate family to ask, so she embarks on an investigation into the past and in particular into an au pair, Laura, who just might hold the key to her life. Laura was there the day of the twin’s birth and their mother’s death, but is she willing to tell Seraphine what really happened?

THE AU PAIR is Emma Rous’ debut novel, but it certainly doesn’t read that way! Written between alternating narratives of Seraphine’s present day investigation and Laura’s experience in the past, Rous builds an unbelievably entertaining story of deception and family secrets. The two narratives work seamlessly in parallel with each other, as Laura’s story progresses closer to the day of the twin’s birth, Seraphine’s quest to the truth will reach its crescendo.

The entire story is delightfully addictive and the switch between narratives pushes the reader to continue reading as they can feel the answers to their questions lying just beyond in the next few pages. When Rous finally chooses to reach the grand reveal, it is nothing short of literary goodness! While I was able to guess parts of the situation, thanks to a few well placed hints along the way, I was still on the edge of my seat for the final few chapters. You can feel the impact the truth is having on not only Seraphine, but her family and everyone who was involved in their birth. The emotion is raw and real in a way that makes the characters easy to sympathize with even if you do want to shake a few of them while asking “what were you thinking?”.

There is nothing complicated to overly wordy about the story to draw your attention away from the investigation at hand. Rous’ writing is light, bingeable, and just the sort of style a reader wants when selecting a thriller. Taking this story to another level is the setting of Summerbourne and the Gothic mood this estate gives this story. Several times I found myself feeling as if the section from the past were based in a much more distant timeline than they actually were just because of the secluded feelings brought about by this family home.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced, atmospheric, and exciting story, I urge you to pick up a copy of THE AU PAIR today!
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