The Au Pair

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 08 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

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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I simply loved this book.  It was a mild thriller. But the back and forth chapters between Laura and Seraphine keep the pages turning.  My only complaint is the cover does adequately depict the feel of the book. Excellent character development.  I am still thinking about the back hours after finishing the book.
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Ive been thinking a lot about this review and have been pretty conflicted.  While I enjoyed this novel, parts of it were disappointing for me.  I believe that Rous is one of the most talented writers Ive read in awhile and has a lot of great ideas for a story, but the execution of some of the ideas left me feeling a little lackluster.

Here is what I enjoyed about the novel:  the quality of writing.  Rous spins a great story and the words flow very well.  I will definitely read other novels by her when they are written.  I liked the setting of the novel - I could picture the cliffs and the beaches.  And the house, I wanted to live there.   The story concept - a character who finds out somethings that makes her doubt her life?  what a great idea!

What I was "disappointed in" would have liked there to be more development with - I felt that there was a lot of build up but the actual action of the novel was rushed.  I would have liked more of a backstory on all the characters.  I would have liked to have known what this curse was and how it weighed on the characters.  Again just felt very rushed.  great build up of suspense, but more action would have been enjoyable.

I do feel fans of GIRL ON THE TRAIN and Paula Hawkins in general would enjoy this novel and type of writing by this author.
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Thank you to Berkley Pub for gifting me an ARC and inviting me onto the Blog Tour for this book, in exchange of an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I rate this book a 4 out of 5 Stars.

So, compare any book to those written by V.C. Andrews, and I am sold. I am so down for twisted, wicked, totally bat shit crazy story lines. Did this one live up to that hype?? For me, it did. This one is getting a lot of mixed reviews, but doesn’t that is the fun part of being a reader, reading something, and forming your own opinion. Did I see things coming? Did I predict somethings? Of course, but there was enough substance to this book, that I still had plenty more to read, and enjoy.

I did love the plot twists, the character dynamics, and just the over all vibe of this book. I am so grateful that I was given the oppurtunity to review this one. I like books, that make you think outside of the box, and appreciate a creative ending, when you read this, and you get to the end, keep an open mind, and just go with it. Don’t try to disprove anything, and your experience reading “The Au Pair” will be an enjoyable one.

I love family dramas, and I love dark gothic plots, and to mesh the two of them was a delicious twist! I felt like I was a 12 year old girl, staying up all night reading a morally twisted novel, all over again (Throwback to my first V.C. Andrews book). Also, LOVED the narration in this book!
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Love, deceit, betrayal, mystery, and suspense fill the pages of this gothic mystery/suspense book. All Seraphine wants is to know who she is. To find answers, she goes against the advice of her brother and seeks out their former au pair.

Two different times are blended in this story. In 2017, it is told through Seraphine’s eyes. In 1991, it is told through the eyes of Laura, the au pair.

What a tangled web of lies has been spun. In 2017 while going through her father’s belongings, Seraphine finds a picture that raises questions in her mind. It was taken on the day she and her brother were born, but in the picture, her mom is only holding one of them. And it was taken just hours before her mom threw herself over the cliff. Her mom looked so happy in the picture. What had happened to cause her to jump off the cliff?

I can understand her curiosity. Who wouldn’t want to know what happened? Who wouldn’t want to know which of the twins was in the picture? And where was the other one? I can understand why Seraphine would seek out the au pair. She should know just what happened that fateful day. What I couldn’t understand was why her brother would discourage her from doing so.

Seraphine also wonders if she is really a twin, really a member of this family. Rumors about her family and talk about changelings she had heard while growing up didn’t help any. What will she learn from the au pair?

When the truth is discovered, it is devastating yet comforting.

Anyone who enjoys mystery/suspense books will love this book. The closer I got to the end of the book, the harder it was to put down. Did I ever figure out what was going on? No. I had my suspicions, but not all of them were right.
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In the same vein of Girl on a Train, as The Au Pair is  contemporary fiction with domestic noir twist. The mystery of The Au Pair unfolds chapter by chapter, keeping you guessing till the very end. Rous crafted a wonderful page turner centered around identity crisis, familial ties and love.
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This is a chilling suspenseful novel that had me guessing until the last chapter. Every time I thought I had it figured out, I would find out a few pages later how wrong I was. This was a debut novel for this author and I think we'll see additional great books from her in the future.

After Seraphine's father dies, she goes through his desk trying to find out the mystery in her family. Her two brothers - Edwin and her twin Danny don't understand why she is so obsessed with her past.
She finds a picture of her mom the day she died holding one baby - but where was the other twin when this picture was taken? And why did her mom committ suicide on the same day the twins were born? Seraphine decides to track down Laura, the au pair who was living with the family at the time of the birth. Once she finds Laura, the pieces to the puzzle of the picture become clearer but when someone tries to kill Laura, the family wonders if they are all in danger.

This story is told in alternating chapters by Laura, the au pair who took care of Edwin and left on the day the twins were born and by Seraphine who is trying to solve the mystery. It was a great way to find out the past and present and to see how the stories came together at the end. This was a real page turner that kept me questioning everything until the surprising ending.

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.
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While this book started out a little slow, I soon found myself racing through the chapters to learn what the Summerbourne twin secrets were. After the slow start, I thought the pacing was great. Not a read in one sitting, heart racing kind of thriller, but the kind of descriptive mystery that keeps you up all night reading because you just have to know how the story ends. 

The book is split between present-day Seraphine, who is questioning where she came from and who she is, and 1991 Laura, the au pair employed by Seraphine's family when she and her twin brother Danny were born. I liked reading both timelines, but Laura's was definitely the most intriguing. All the characters were flawed but sympathetic. The ending is a bit unrealistic (ok, super unrealistic), but it's fiction so I tend to just suspend my disbelief and go along with the ride!

I would recommend this book for fans of Ruth Ware, who are looking for an atmospheric mystery novel.

Thanks again to Netgalley, Berkley Publishing Group, and Emma Rous for this ARC!
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The Au Pair is both ominous and mysterious, to say the least. It took a bit before I really started to get into the story. But when I did, it was amazing. We follow two separate time periods and two different women—Seraphine and Laura, the au pair for Seraphine’s older brother. 

I can’t even begin to tell you how well written the story was. At times, I could see that it dragged a bit but then something would happen to bring me right back into the story. It was glorious. The characters were intriguing and had me on the edge of my seat. 

The dual POVs gave the story an extra sense of suspense to it. I was ready to get down the mystery asap. Which was probably why I finished the book so fast. Readers who enjoy books that keep you guessing until the very end, no doubt love this one. I’m excited to see what Tous brings us next!
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I enjoyed this one! Any time a book makes me want to go to bed to read, I know it’s quality for me. Though some of the mystery was a bit predictable, there were parts that were not. The book is well-written, told in two different viewpoints, past and present, with likable characters. I also feel like the characters were developed well throughout the story, especially Laura. Though she made mistakes, I really liked her character. I would have liked a bit more info about Ruth’s mental illness just for my own curiosity.
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Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother Danny were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle. Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is beautifully dressed, smiling serenely, and holding just one baby. A mix between family drama & mystery, this book is sure to keep your on your feet through the twists! This book was definitely a slow-build, but I really enjoyed how the story unfolded and the different POV between Seraphine and Laura, twenty years earlier. I didn't love this one as much as I thought I would. Some of the details felt overdone and complicated the plot line, but overall I did enjoy it.
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