Book Title and Author: The Au Pair by Emma Rous
Publication Date and Publisher: January 8, 2019 by Berkley Books
Genre: Fiction, Gothic Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 384 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: December 8, 2018 (e-arc)
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.
Who is the child and what really happened that day?
One person knows the truth, if only Seraphine can find her.
As soon as I started reading The Au Pair, I was completely enticed by the storyline that’s filled with long-hidden family secrets and mistaken identities. More than anything I was fascinated by the ambiance of the Mayes family’s large Norfolk estate, Summerbourne and those who resided there, both past and present. Summerbourne, the cliff where so many deaths have happened, the glorious gardens, the beach, and the villager’s talk of the “Summerbourne Sprites” and the myth that twins couldn’t remain at the estate are all used with great effect by Emma Rous to make her debut modern thriller the perfect gothic novel. Some of you may know that gothic suspense is my favorite of all genres, so it was an absolute pleasure to sit and enjoy this whirlwind of a novel!
Summerbourne is a house of mysteries, secrets and over the years it has seen its share of tragedies…most recently, Dominic Mayes, father to twins Seraphine and Danny, and their brother Edwin was found dead at the bottom of his ladder. In the past, their mother jumped from the cliffs mere hours after the twins birth, apparently suffering a psychotic break and a year earlier, Edwin’s twin brother Theo fell from the same cliffs when he was two years old. Because of these tragedies, Summerbourne’s reputation is a tragic and haunting one.
Yet, for Seraphine, Summerbourne is her place of refuge, the place she loves more than anywhere else. It is while she is spending her compassionate leave at home following her dad’s death that she stumbles across a photograph she’s never seen before that was taken the day she and Danny were born. In it is her father, brother Edwin, and her mother, looking very happy, who is holding just one newborn baby.
The photo immediately raises questions with Seraphine about her true identity. Is she really a Summerbourne twin? If so, why is there only one baby in the photo? There was no midwife at her mother’s birth, and Seraphine was considerably larger at birth, so she’s always had doubts and unsettling questions, especially as village children teased her about not looking at all like her brothers. Seraphine also wants to know why her father kept this picture hidden their entire lives and if her mom was so happy in the photo, why did she commit suicide a few hours later?
As Seraphine begins to delve deep into her family’s secrets, she discovers a name she’d never heard of before: Laura Silveira, Edwin’s eighteen-year-old au pair in 1992, the year Danny and she were born. For Seraphine, Laura is the key to solving the secret to everything since she was there the day her mother gave birth and died! Laura probably took the picture of her mother holding the one baby and will know where the other baby was and will be able to explain after all these years why her mother killed herself since no one in the family would ever talk about it. Her search for Laura and the truth will consume her even if it puts her and those around her in danger because someone is determined to keep these family secrets buried!
Seraphine’s search for Laura in 2017 alternates with Laura’s story in the past until the two storylines converge in a gripping ending! Rous not only writes riveting characters, but the plot, while a bit predictable in a few places (this takes away nothing from the gorgeousness of the writing or story!), unravels slowly at first then builds to a whirlwind crescendo as Rous throws in twists and turns in each chapter that left me bewildered at times while I absorbed each chapter’s stunning revelations! Once the story finished, I applauded Rous for writing a brilliant gothic suspense novel!
I think The Au Pair will be a huge hit and highly recommend you pre-order it now…it publishes January 8, 2019! If you love gothic suspense, domestic drama, thrillers, mystery, and wonderful writing, then you want to read this book! Honestly, I cannot believe this is Rous’ debut and can’t wait to read what she writes next!
**Thank you Edelweiss and Berkley Books for the Arc to read in exchange for my fair and honest review!**