Review – The Au Pair, by Emma Rous


The Au Pair
by Emma Rous

Genre: Mystery

Length: 384 Pages

Release date: January 8, 2019

Publisher: Berkley Books

Synopsis: 

A grand estate, terrible secrets, and a young woman who bears witness to it all. If V. C. Andrews and Kate Morton had a literary love child, Emma Rous’ The Au Pair would be it.

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.

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The publisher compares The Au Pair to the work of V. C. Andrews, and with the gothic horror vibe of the story, I get where that comes from. Honestly, though, I found myself thinking more of Lifetime movies while reading. It’s definitely the epitome of guilty pleasure reading, and Rous has no issues with straining the limits of credulity of her readers.

The plot is fun and the atmosphere is mildly creepy, particularly in the flashback scenes to Laura’s timeline. I definitely think that of the two timelines, Laura’s story was stronger than Seraphine’s. Watching things spiral out of control at Summerbourne due in large part to Ruth’s selfishness and instability was infinitely more engaging than watching Seraphine learn about these events years after the face.

The overall story is suspenseful but does feel rather shallow. Rous attempts to do something deeper by exploring themes of identity and family (i.e., the question of whether blood matters more than who raised you) but never really gets anywhere meaningful or evocative in that regard. Seraphine spends most of the book questioning whether her parents were really her parents at all, whether her supposed twin brother is even related to her. With the closeness of a twin relationship in particular, family is very central to Seraphine’s sense of identity. There’s never really any gradual shift in this regard. Blood matters very much to Seraphine… until it simply doesn’t anymore.

Overall, this was a fun read with loads of suspense and mystery but with twists that can border on the ridiculous at times. The Au Pair is the ultimate brain candy: the perfect book to binge when you’re looking for an easy, entertaining read.

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Purchase links

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Thank you for reading! Have you read any good mystery/thrillers lately? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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Review – The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

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The Wife Between Us
by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Genre: Mystery / Suspense

Length: 352 Pages

Published: January 9, 2018

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Blurb via GoodReads: 

A novel of suspense that explores the complexities of marriage and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife and her obsession with her replacement.
You will assume you are reading about a woman about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves.
You will assume the first wife was a disaster and that the husband was well rid of her.
You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.
Assume nothing.

Discover the next blockbuster novel of suspense, and get ready for the read of your life.flourish

Holy plot twist, Batman. This book was one twist after another, up until the very end, but a lot of the twists felt… underwhelming, particularly the one that comes at the very end. It added another dimension to the story that didn’t really add anything meaningful and tested the limits of my suspension of disbelief. The layers of deception in this book are seemingly endless.

This book is difficult to talk about without giving too much away; a lot depends on the reader going into the story knowing as little as possible and enjoying the plot twists as they unfold. This is one book that absolutely cannot survive spoilers. Suffice it to say that it vacillates between being a fun ride and throwing so many plots twists at the reader that half of them feel superfluous. The authors simply didn’t have sufficient time to develop all of the plot lines they tried to cram into this book. The end result feels a bit messy. Perhaps this is partially a product of two authors attempting to work together for the first time?

*Spoilers Ahead.* I’d like to explain in more detail why parts of this book fell flat for me; I don’t recommend proceeding unless you have already read the book.

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The reader is meant to think that Vanessa is the ex wife and Nellie is her “replacement.” The first major twist was that Vanessa and Nellie are the same person, just before and after marriage to Richard. Nellie was a nickname Richard had for her. This was the twist that was most effective, in my opinion; I did not see this one coming. It was interesting and it made the reader look back on the passages they’ve already read in a new light. These things make for a good twist. Some reviewers thought the blurb made this twist too obvious; I’m inclined to agree, but I was lucky in that, due to long library hold times, I read the blurb and the book over a month apart, so it wasn’t fresh in my mind at the time.

However, a decent part of the “mystery” of this novel seems to be in unearthing what went wrong in Vanessa’s marriage with Richard. Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of signs of abuse will see the red flags very early on in the book. Richard is fiercely controlling, albeit sometimes in the guise of “taking care” of Vanessa. The most extreme example of this is when he purchases a house shortly before the wedding without ever consulting Vanessa about it. Flowers are nice surprises; houses are not. This was something that obviously should have been a joint decision and it shows Richard’s failure Vanessa as an autonomous person who may want to have some say in where she’ll be living.

Richard’s sister, Maureen, has a weird obsession with him, probably of the incestuous variety. Vanessa doesn’t seem to pick up on this until very late in the story, and I’m not sure why it was included at all.  Maybe it was meant to add to the “creep” factor of the story and help it live up to the “thriller” label, but it was so tangential to everything important to the actual plot that it felt very unnecessary and tacked on. I thought at one point they were trying to hint that Maureen was sabotaging Richard’s relationships out of jealousy, but Richard did a fine job of sabotaging those all on his own.

The final plot twist also felt superfluous to me. The revelation of Emma’s true identity was one twist too many and my suspension of disbelief snapped under the undue tension. The grudge she was holding and the things she was willing to do in order to get back at Vanessa felt completely out of proportion to Vanessa’s perceived “crime.” Sure, maybe Emma was simply meant to be a bit unbalanced, but Vanessa seems to be surrounded by unbalanced people; in the end, it feels like a lazy way of writing in some truly irrational behavior without having to bother to make it make sense.

The reviews on this book seem to be all over the place. Either you’ll love it to pieces or wonder if you’re really reading the same book everyone else seems to be raving about. Unfortunately, this one fell a bit flat for me. The intricate, tangled web the the authors were trying to weave for the reader just looked like… a mess.

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Have you read The Wife Between Us? What were your thoughts? What’s the best thriller you’ve read lately?

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Girl Last Seen – Review

tumblr_p9gqe5tNHH1xuuvabo1_1280Girl Last Seen is the debut novel by Nina Laurin, released June of 2017.

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Laine was kidnapped at ten and dumped on the side of the highway three years later. Thirteen, pregnant, traumatized, and worst of all, unable to identify her attacker to bring him to justice, Laine struggled to cope with her baby being taken from her and the ever-looming threat of the monster still out there. Would he come back for her? Would he find another girl to replace her? And if he did, would it be her fault for not being able to stop him?

Fast forward to today, and Laine has spent the past ten years of her life hanging on by a thread. She numbs herself to the trauma with pills and alcohol. She works two jobs to afford her tiny apartment, and she obsesses over missing persons reports. One day, ten-year-old Olivia Shaw’s face grips Laine from a missing person poster, and she knows it in her gut: this little girl, the spitting image of Laine herself 13 years prior, was taken by the same man. Is there some forgotten scrap of detail that can help her save Olivia? Will trying to remember totally destroy her?


Girl Last Seen was an interesting read, if a bit unpolished. The fact that it was a debut novel showed through, in my opinion, but it was a relatively solid attempt. The story is gritty and dark; Laine felt real to me, if incredibly frustrating. Nina Laurin is not worried about making her protagonist likable. Laine is exactly the kind of mess one would expect after the childhood trauma she endured and the lack of proper support that followed it. She has unhealthy coping mechanisms, a fear of letting anyone get too close, and an out of proportion sense of guilt over things out of her control, in particular the actions of her attacker due to her inability to lead the police to him. She felt a bit like a Gillian Flynn heroine to me, and, despite her many flaws, I felt for her.

That being said, the plot was a bit predictable. This doesn’t always bother me, but in a mystery/thriller book, it’s a cardinal sin. With certain plot elements, I genuinely couldn’t tell if Laurin was trying and failing to shock the reader, or if she was just trying to portray Laine as too much of a mess to see the obvious right in front of her face. Either way, it took some of the suspense out of a book where the suspense was a major selling point.

My overall impression of this book was that it was just okay. There seems to be enough potential there that I’m not at all put off of Nina Laurin’s work, however. She has a new book coming out next month, What My Sister Knewand the reviews so far seem to be more favorable on average. I look forward to seeing how she’s grown as a writer with the new book.