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The Au Pair

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Talk about family drama, yikes!!  Oh man, I loved it all! This is a debut novel and I cannot believe it, so so good.  The father of twins Danny and Seraphina, and their older brother Edwin has recently passed away due to a sudden accident, and their mother committed suicide shortly after the twins were born.  While going through his belongings, Seraphina finds a photo that is suspect to say the least, and she begins to question everything about their birth.  She tries to find the Au Pair that was helping their mother with Edwin before they were born, and from there things begin to unravel and Seraphina starts questioning everything she thought she knew since she was a child.

I could NOT put this down, I had to know what was going on.  And of course, all of my bright ideas were just flat out wrong.  So you can probably discern that this is a dysfunctional family, and that Laura, the au pair, has some secrets of her own, but how the author weaves everything together to make it work is fantastic, and just overall very well done.  The book is told from two POVs - Seraphine's in the current day, and Laura's from back then. This makes for a very interesting narrative, but it really works for this story.

There are a couple of subplots going on, and without spoiling anything, we are trying to figure out if the mother's death is as it seems, the twins are who they think they are, and who knows what but isn't saying?  Oh, and throw in old folklore that has been going around for years regarding the original family that owned the land who made some bad deals and as a result bad things happened to his twins.  So, from then on, as legend would have it, any set of twins living on said land were 'doomed', which may or may not be occurring...

I was not sure how this would go, and although perhaps it veered a tad out there with the final explanation, it is fiction after all and therefore I went with it.  Like I said, I was not expecting the story to go this way, and it was a nice change for me.  The pacing was steady, and just overall a great read that I knocked out in about two settings. I will absolutely be recommending this one when it comes out on 1/8/19.

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkely for the electronic ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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25 years previously, something bad happened at the Summerbourne Estate, when twins Danny and Seraphine were born. When Danny and Seraphine's father dies, Seraphine finds a picture of her mother she has never seen before, which starts Seraphine on a journey to discover what happened 25 years ago and the one person who might be able to give her the answers she needs is the Au Pair.
This story is told in dual narratives, present day Seraphine and 25 years in the past with the Au Pair, Lauren.  The dual narratives worked very well in this setting and developed a well laid out and descriptive story. This was a page turner and I loved every minute of it. 
I only wish the final reveal was a little more developed. It seemed to happen very quickly and I had to read that section a couple of times to figure out all the nuances. But maybe that was intended. 
Great mystery.
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The premise of The Au Pair pulled me in right away. A woman throws herself off a cliff behind her isolated estate the night she gives birth to twins. And now, 25 years later, her daughter, Seraphine, wonders what led her mother to the edge of that cliff and whatever happened to the au pair–what does she know?

I agree there were certain V.C. Andrews elements to the plot. The story switches back and forth from Seraphine’s present day perspective to Laura’s ( the au pair), 25 years earlier. Laura has been hired to keep an eye on Edwin, whose twin toddled off the side of the same cliff behind his house. So she has to really watch him as his mom is a bit of a mess. 

So just the fact that Seraphine has a twin–Danny, and Edwin had a twin is a  little weird,  but I guess those types of things do run in families? And the mom isn’t a hot mess, she is just sort of absent-minded and random. And she has a “friend” who visits a lot and she has kind of weird relationship there. 
From this point in the story, things start to get going. There are love triangles or squares and secrets and lies. And I really couldn’t figure any of it out on my own. I’m not sure if it was because some of it was just that random or if the author did a great job of eluding me. 

I’m giving it 3.5 stars. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, because I did. And I loved the mystery. But in the second half of the book, the mystery threated to run away with itself and I would have liked to identify more with at least one of the characters. Good story, but I wasn’t emotionally attached. 

Special thanks to Berkley Publishing Group and Netgalley for an e-galley in exchange for my honest review. The Au Pair was also a January 2019 IndieNext Selection, so don’t just trust my opinion, check it out! This one is out January 8, 2019.
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This was a fast paced complex domestic suspense. I was immediately intrigued with the family and their secrets and atmospheric home of the Summerbourne. The ending was really good but packed with stories of the past and present. that slowed the pace some but it was still enjoyable.

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Books for this copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Rating: 3.75/5 stars. 

A family-centred mystery for readers who enjoyed Emma In The Night by Wendy Walker or The Death Of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware. 

Emma Rous’s debut novel follows a young woman named Seraphine Mayes who is desperate to learn more about the circumstances surrounding her mother's’ suicide and her own family history. 

Only hours after Seraphine and her twin brother Danny were born on the Mayes’ family’s elegant English estate, their mother jumped from the cliffs behind their home. More than two decades later, after the passing of the twins’ father, Seraphine decides to track down the au pair, Laura, who lived with the family when she was born. What she uncovers is a family secret that spans decades and includes a variety of mysterious and sometimes sinister characters. 

Told in alternating points of view between Seraphine and Laura, The Au Pair explores tense family relationships, a gossipy small town, and utter mayhem of child-rearing. The most intriguing plotline in the novel isn’t Seraphine’s search for her identity, but rather Laura’s experiences as an au pair, and in particular her relationship with the Mayes’ family’s eldest son, Edwin. It’s a beautiful, heartwarming and sometimes painful relationship between child and guardian that’s perfectly written and deeply emotional. Laura, only a teenager herself, has to grow up quickly living with a family who aren’t what they seem and an employer battling her own demons. 

If you’re an adamant realist, The Au Pair may not be the ideal book for you. Rous’s storyline requires readers to suspend disbelief at times, but ultimately pays off in its ability to shock and surprise them. With a hauntingly beautiful setting and a relatable leading character desperate two know more about who she really is, The Au Pair is likely to make “Best Beach Reads of 2019” lists everywhere. 

Several plot twists and surprises are rather easy to see coming, but others will genuinely catch readers by surprise. Although some loose ends are tied up in a way that may be a bit of a stretch, The Au Pair’s ending is a generally satisfying and clean one. You won’t walk away from the book feeling like something was missing or unclear. 

In a literary market saturated with domestic thrillers, it's hard for a writer or story to stand out. The Au Pair, while a fun read, isn’t likely to break records as the best thriller of the year. But with a unique plot and likeable characters it is a fun and worthwhile read for anyone who enjoys this kind of novel. With two (complicated) love stories as subplots, The Au Pair will also appeal to any readers who crave romance. 

Emma Rous, a Cambridge graduate who practiced veterinary medicine for almost two decades before turning to writing, is a talented author and definitely someone to watch out for in the coming years. The Au Pair, while not perfect, is a strong literary debut and a book that is sure to please its readers.
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The Au Pair by Emma Rous is a twisty tale of family secrets and murder. Seraphine and her twin brother, Danny, as well as her older brother, Edwin, have gathered together at their childhood home following the sudden and accidental death of their father. A previously unseen photo that Seraphine discovers leaves her pondering exactly what happened on the day she was born and her mother died. The mysteries unravel as Seraphine digs into her past.  A quick and entertaining story. Read and enjoy!
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As I sit to write my review of Emma Rous' The Au Pair, I'm realizing this is going to be a complicated thing for a book that I devoured in three days. 

Why? Because everything in the book is fraught with such balance, such breathless anticipation of the next big reveal, such moments of shock and awe. I'm terrified I'll spoil something and this is a book people need to read, to talk about, and to discover the heart of.

So please forgive my vague words when it comes to the plot itself, you'll thank me in the end. I promise.

The Au Pair is told from two perspectives - Seraphine in modern day, present tense and Laura in 1991, past tense. Laura is the au pair, nanny to the Mayes family that lives in coastal Norfolk. Seraphine is born while Laura is employed there. Seraphine, as an adult mourning the recent death of her father, begins to look into the things that have always bothered her about why her family, even after her mother fell from a cliff hours after she and her twin brother were born, has never seemed quite right.

What unfolds in Seraphine's search for answers and Laura's telling of the past is a story of love, mostly unrequited, a story of family, that doesn't follow the strictest definitions of such, and of friendship, because the lines between family and friends can blur even in the darkest moments.

For part of the story I thought things were trending a bit toward predictable and expected, but I was wrong. I didn't know what was going to be revealed, and that was the absolute icing on the cake. There were a couple things I sort of guessed, but Emma Rous revealed them in just the right way to make me still so happy to discover them. But not the big things, the big things I never could have imagined.

And it was all so very perfect, an absolutely readable psychological thriller of family and discovery.

*The Au Pair is on sale January 8, 2019. (Apologies to Emma Rous and the publishers for posting this review so early... I just want everyone to pre-order and read it ASAP!)

I received a copy of The Au Pair from NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.
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Oh wow. Put some time away for this book. It has all the ingredients for a terrific psychological thriller.

No spoilers from me.  Book is great with lots of lies, deception, tragedy, and twists. Also, loved the unpredictable ending.  Can't say enough great about this. Read it today!!

Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read this fabulous book.
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The review will post on January 1st. 

Emma Rous' The Au Pair is touted to be a mix of V.C. Andrews and Kate Morton. I'm not familiar with Kate Morton, but I read many V.C. Andrews stories as a teen. I would agree with that thought.

After her father's death, Seraphine Mayes is reeling. She comes across a photo in the family estate and wonders why only one of the infants is in the photo with the mom she never knew. She and her twin Danny were left behind when their mother jumped off a cliff shortly after their birth.

After the suicide, the family's beloved au pair left for good. Seraphine's older brother never understood why. He lost his mother and his nanny in one day. Their father was the last link they had to the past.

Seraphine decides to investigate and learn the truth about her mother's suicide and why only one baby is in the photo. Soon, she is receiving threatening messages. Someone doesn't want her to uncover the truth.

There's a mix of good and bad to be found within The Au Pair. The story is told from Seraphine's point of view in the present day and the au pair's point of view in the past. I found the narrative moved swiftly and kept the story progressing.

The bad is that I pegged the outcome and the real events that day far too early. Despite the townspeople believing the family was cursed, I had it pegged. I think that's why I found it so reminiscent of V.C. Andrews.

This story had me hooked. It is predictable, but I became so involved in the lives of both past and present characters that I couldn't stop reading.
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This novel really pulled me in at the beginning. I'm a sucker for multiple timelines in books, so I loved that we followed Seraphine in the present day and the titular character, Laura (the au pair), in 1991 and 1992. The writing felt atmospheric and intriguing, and everything was set up in a way that there were immediately questions I had to keep reading to find the answers to.

But about halfway through the book, it really lost me. I should say first of all I really, really don't like cheating and secret babies in books. But sometimes I can bear it if it's done in a way that makes me ache for the characters. But the motivations behind the characters in the 90s timeline were so flimsy that I couldn't connect with any of them and just wanted to roll my eyes at all their drama. (I don't think the drama is supposed to be eyeroll-inducing.) We're supposed to believe one character is in love with another, but the infatuation comes off so flat that I just... wanted that character to go away. Several characters end up sleeping with each other for no apparent reason. It just felt like everything had been purposely set up to create drama, but the tension made me annoyed rather than eager to keep reading.

I made myself keep reading, though, because things had become so convoluted that I did want to find out which child was which. So another point to Emma Rous for at least keeping the twists coming. But it was just too much.

The reveals seemed, to me, extremely over-the-top. I'll try not to spoil it, but... I know suspense and thriller novels have some element of exaggeration, but even my suspension of disbelief could not withstand the drama after about the 70% mark of this book. Several of my suspicions were correct, (which is fine with me -- I don't mind being able to predict twists, because it makes the payoff nice) but I almost wished they weren't, because they were not executed in a way that made me feel like all the tension had been worth it.

By 88% I didn't feel like putting myself through any more of it. There might have been even more twists at the end, but I didn't care to find out.

I'd give this book 4 stars for perhaps the first half, but 2 for the second half, which rounds it out to three stars. I wish I had loved this book more -- it sounded right up my alley. The cover is still absolutely beautiful, though.
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After losing her father in a tragic accident, Seraphine finds an old family photo taken just after her birth. In it, her mother looks radiantly happy as she holds her newborn baby with her 4 year old on one side and husband on the other. The problem is, Seraphine has a twin brother and her mother killed herself mere hours after the picture was taken. Is she really the baby in the photo? If not, who is it? If so, where is her twin? And, what happened in the space of a few short hours to drive her mother over the edge?

Told from alternating POVs, this story moves back and forth between present day Seraphine and Laura, the Au Pair employed by her family the summer she was born. Believable characters and twists and turns drew me in from the first chapter. Highly recommended for fans of mystery/suspense novels and family dramas. I found this one comparable to what I've read from Liane Moriarty.
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There were so many things I liked about this book.  We have an old English country estate called Summerbourne, a seemingly neurotic young woman named Seraphine Mayes who is obsessed with finding out about her early life, a mystery about Ruth (Seraphine and her twin brother Danny’s mother), Ruth’s suicide and an ending that will blow you away.

The Au Pair is Laura Silverira, hired to take care of young Edwin Mayes. The other players are Edwin’s parents, Ruth and Dominic Mayes, their friend Alex and Ruth’s mother Vera. In Laura’s chapters we see the interactions between these people. Ruth appears to vacillate between depression and paranoia 80% of the time. Her mother Vera is domineering and controlling, but perhaps she is trying to take care of Ruth. The time period is 1992, the year Seraphine and Danny were born.

Seraphine’s chapters are in present day. Her father Dominic recently died in an accident. As Seraphine goes through her father’s belongings she finds a photo of her parents and Edwin, her mother holding a newborn. Her mother is smiling yet hours later she throws herself off a cliff. Why is there only one baby in the photo when Ruth had twins and – which baby is it? Is it Seraphine or Danny? This is the catalyst setting Seraphine off in search of the au pair Laura, hoping to find out what happened all those years ago.

Her brothers urge her to leave it alone and of course she doesn’t. The consequences of her secret investigation into their past will have devastating consequences. As you get to know the characters you’ll wonder if Seraphine isn’t a fragile sort of person, perhaps suffering from mild depression or anxiety. Are some of her assumptions and theories valid or is she over the edge? This is all revealed as you read on and to mention some outcomes would certainly spoil your reading experience.

This story is like a fireworks display. It starts as a slow simmer, builds up steam and then blows up around the 85% mark with dynamic revelations. I am awaiting this author’s next book and hope it’s as engaging and mysterious as this book.

Food makes an appearance here and there:

“Edwin and I unpack the grocery bags together on Saturday morning. As ever, the effect the fresh ingredients have on him is powerful: he smiles as he rubs his thumbs over the onions, flexes the celery, sniffs at the Parmesan and inspects the prawns. He’s in his element, relaxed and happy.”

Chocolate tiffin, cinnamon pastries, slices of carrot cake with thick lemon frosting, an apple plum crumble, pots of homemade applesauce, flapjacks, chocolate sponge cake, speared pineapple and chunks of cheese.

“Dominic was pressing sprigs of rosemary into a joint of lamb, a mound of unwashed potatoes sat by the sink.”

Roasted turkey and potatoes and chipolatas.

I didn't have the chipolatas but I do have turkey and roasted potatoes :-)

(photo on my blog)

Much thanks to NetGalley for this advanced copy. Opinions are mine and I was not compensated for the review. Publication date is January 8, 2019.
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Part gothic tale, part modern mystery, this book is another page turner that will have you reading long into the night, as you attempt with Seraphine to unravel a web of lies so taunt that it seems there are more false leads than truth! As each member of the 'straight out of an Agatha tale' book gets introduced, it seems we know less and less about them, as the lies cover the truth everywhere Seraphine turns. As family member after family member begs her to drop her search, she knows they each have memories they have either forgotten, or chosen to pretend never happened.this one will keep you up long into the night too, so be prepared!
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Gretchen Snodgrass's review Nov 26, 2018  ·  edit
really liked it

I was drawn into this story from the very beginning. The setting takes place between two time periods, 1991 and 2017, in an estate called Summerbourne. The au pair of the title tells the 1991 story, and Seraphine tells the modern one. Although the story takes place in modern times, the atmosphere and tone of the story are old time gothic. It reminded me of books written by Daphne DuMaurier. There's a mystery behind the Summerbourne twins' lives, and after their father dies, Seraphine starts to delve into the past. As the past starts to collide with the present, secrets are revealed about all involved. This book held my interest and kept me guessing throughout. This was a good read.
I received an Advance Review Copy. All opinions are my own.
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This was a great book for a long weekend or a vacation - really absorbing. It's easy to get sucked into the world of privileged but isolated Summerbourne and the family that has resided there for generations somewhere in the English countryside. This was one of those stories that relies on to narrators from different time periods in the story, a technique I love. This relies mostly in the accounts of Laura, an Au Pair in the 90s and Seraphine, the woman whose older brother Laura Nannied as a child. I'm not a big mystery reader but I liked the mystery to this story, along with the generational stories and characters. You're really guessing at the plot resolution until the very last minute. The plot can seem overly complicated at points, your often re-reading or tempted to draw yourself a diagram, but not too often. If you really love mysteries this may be more of a winner for you, I just didn't feel too emotional connected to the characters.
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I did find this book enjoyable for the most part but the ending was just too convoluted, long and confusing. It was rather ridiculous honestly and ruined how fascinated I was with the first half of the book.
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Suspenseful novel about right after Seraphine and her twin brother Danny are born their mother throws herself off a cliff and their au pair disappears. Years later after her father dies she goes through papers and photographs and she has many questions about her mother and her death and what really happened. Interesting novel worth reading.
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Told in dual storylines leading up to what happened on one day, this is one compulsive mystery-thriller!  I'm still reeling from the red herrings and twists. I'd think I figured something out and then...nope. And the actuality of what happened kind of blew my mind...I'm still thinking about it.
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The Au Pair, a mysterious figure in the life of twins Danny and Seraphine, seems to be the only one who can explain why there is only one baby in the birth-day photo of the twins, and maybe why their mother threw herself from the cliff right after. But the au pair doesn't want to talk to them and their older brother doesn't remember a lot, just that HIS twin died falling from the cliff before Danny and Seraphine were born. The townspeople believe the family is cursed--that no set of twins will survive. But Danny and Seraphine have survived to adulthood.

After the death of their father, Seraphine is determined to get to the bottom of the mysteries, at any cost to herself and her brothers. Barriers are thrown in her path and she is warned time and again but persists in trying to learn the truth. Read The Au Pair by Emma Rous to learn if she is successful. Recommended for those who enjoy a good mystery. Dr. Cheryl Youse, Colqutit County High School
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This twisty tale about an au pair who gets drawn into a dysfunctional love triangle kept me turning pages to the end. Told in two different voices, between the past and the present, this story was at times confusing and convoluted but still an enjoyable read.
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