January 8th 2019: The Au Pair by Emma Rous


This book was provided to me as an advanced digital copy by Berkley Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Release date: January 8th, 2019

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.

You might also like:

  • The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware (read my review here)

  • Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker