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The Au Pair
Cover of The Au Pair
The Au Pair
by Emma Rous
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If V. C. Andrews and Kate Morton had a literary love child, Emma Rous' USA Today bestseller The Au Pair would be it.
One of the most anticipated books of 2019 from Pop Sugar, Bustle, Cosmo, Parade, and Goodreads!

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 smiling serenely and holding just one baby.
Who is the child, and what really happened that day?

If V. C. Andrews and Kate Morton had a literary love child, Emma Rous' USA Today bestseller The Au Pair would be it.
One of the most anticipated books of 2019 from Pop Sugar, Bustle, Cosmo, Parade, and Goodreads!

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 smiling serenely and holding just one baby.
Who is the child, and what really happened that day?
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    1

     

    Seraphine

     

    August 2017

     

    We have no photographs of our early days, Danny and I. A six-month gap yawns in the Mayes family album after we were born. No first-day-at-school pictures for Edwin, no means of telling which of us two looked more like him at the beginning. An empty double page marks the overwhelming grief that followed our arrival.

     

    It's a muggy evening at Summerbourne, and the unopened window in the study muffles the distant rasp of the sea and leaves my skin clammy. I've spent the day creating paperwork towers that cluster around the shredder now, their elongated shadows reminding me of the graveyard. If Edwin has finished his packing, he'll be waiting for me downstairs; he disapproves of me doing this so soon, or perhaps disapproves of me doing it at all.

     

    The swivel chair tilts with me as I grab another photo wallet from the bottom desk drawer-more landscape shots of my father's, I expect-and I focus on the wall calendar as I straighten, counting red-rimmed squares. Twenty days since my father's accident. Eight days since his funeral. The packet flaps open and spills glossy black negatives across the carpet, and my jaw tightens. I've lost count of how many days since I last slept.

     

    The first photo is of Edwin on the beach as a child, and I check the date on the back: June 1992, just weeks before Danny and I were born. I study this four-year-old version of my big brother for any sign of awareness of the family catastrophe that was looming, but of course there is none: he's laughing, squinting against the bright sunlight, pointing a plastic spade toward a dark-haired young woman at the edge of the image.

     

    Photos of seagulls and sunsets follow, and I shuffle through them until I reach the final picture: a domestic scene both recognizable and unfamiliar. The hairs at the base of my skull prickle, and I hold my breath, and the air in the room presses closer, as if it too is straining to absorb the details.

     

    We grew up with no photos of our early days, Danny and I. Yet here is our mother, sitting on the patio at Summerbourne, her face tilted down toward a swaddled baby cradled in her arms. Here is our father, standing on one side of her, young Edwin on the other side, both beaming proudly at the camera.

     

    I bend closer over the image: my mother, before she left us. The details of her expression are hazy, the picture poorly focused, yet she radiates a calm composure from the neatness of her hair, the angle of her cheek, the curve of her body around the single infant. She shows none of the wild-eyed distress that has always haunted my imagination in the absence of anyone willing to describe her final hours to me.

     

    I flip the photo over, and my father's distinctive scrawl confirms it was taken on the day we were born, just over twenty-five years ago. I already know it could be no later, because on the same day Danny and I were born, our mother jumped from the cliffs behind our house and killed herself.

     

    My bare feet make no noise on the stairs.

     

    A duffel bag lurks by the hall table, snagging at my dressing gown as I sweep past. I find Edwin leaning against the wooden countertop in the unlit kitchen, gazing through the wide glass doors toward the shadows in the garden.

     

    "Look at this." I flick on the lights. "I've never seen this before."

     

    He takes the picture, blinking.

     

    "Me neither," he says. He studies it. "The day you were born. I didn't know we had this, but . . . yeah, I think I remember it being...

Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    October 15, 2018
    An unfamiliar photo causes a British woman to question her identity and investigate long-hidden family secrets in this debut thriller.With her father recently having died in an unfortunate accident the day before her birthday, Seraphine Mayes is spending her compassionate leave going through his belongings at Summerbourne, the large Norfolk estate where she was raised. In his things, she finds a photograph she's never seen before: It shows her mother, father, and older brother, Edwin, with her mother holding a newborn baby. What's strange, however, is that Seraphine is a twin and there's no telling whether the baby is her or her brother, Danny. Also, mere hours after the twins' birth, their mother committed suicide by throwing herself off a cliff near the house. Why had she never seen this photograph, what did it reveal about her past, and who took it? As Seraphine delves deeper into the mysteries of her family, she finds more deaths, coverups, and mysterious disappearances than one ancestry should contain. At the center of all of this is one figure she's never heard of: Laura, Edwin's au pair the summer she and Danny were born. If she can just find her, maybe she'll discover the secret of her birth. Rous' debut novel is a whirlwind, twisting and turning with new revelations every few pages. Pinging between Seraphine's search in the present and Laura's experiences in the past, the reader is never entirely sure of what they know, as each chapter brings new information that may change previous certainties. The ambiance of Summerbourne and the family that inhabits it, from the folly to the gardens to the old gardener who speaks of fairies, adds that gothic touch to what might otherwise have been a generic family-mystery thriller.A modern gothic suspense novel done right.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 29, 2018
    Seraphine Mayes, the protagonist of British author Rous’s atmospheric if muddled first novel, has so many questions, to which she despairs of getting answers, after her father’s recent death. Like why the 25-year-old barely looks like either of her brothers, or what drove her mother to kill herself at the family’s remote estate on the Norfolk coast the same day she and twin Danny arrived in July 1992. Then, while sorting through her father’s effects, she finds a snapshot, taken that fateful day, showing her proud parents and big brother, Edwin, with a single newborn—and resolves to track down the photographer, whom Edwin identifies as his au pair, Laura Silveira. Undeterred by pleas from her family to desist, as well as subsequent anonymous threats, Seraphine gradually teases open a dangerous Pandora’s box of secrets about her family and the au pair who became part of it. Rous ably interweaves accounts from dual narrators Seraphine and Laura to fan the suspense, but her plot-driven page-turner eventually founders after a few too many fantastic turns. Agent: Rebecca Ritchie, A.M. Heath (U.K).

  • Booklist

    December 1, 2018
    Twins born on the Summerbourne estate never survive, at least according to local lore, until the births of Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother, Danny. However, just a few hours after giving birth to the twins, their mother, Ruth, commits suicide by throwing herself from the estate's high cliffs and perishing amidst the rocks and ocean spray below. Twenty-five years later, Seraphine begins searching for the truth of that mysterious day, beginning with the family's au pair, Laura, who fled Summerbourne on the same day of Seraphine and Danny's birth and their mother's death. The narration builds slowly and deliberately, switching back and forth between modern-day Seraphine and Laura's memory of the events that led up to the tragic incident. This tale pulls its readers in from the very beginning, with many secrets and surprises; it is as delicious and spellbinding as a soap opera, complete with the dramatic moments and outrageous twists. A promising first novel from Rous, The Au Pair is an absolutely absorbing and scandalous page-turner.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

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