The Au Pair and the Beast
by Aurora Russell
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
Veronica’s new job comes with a darling little boy, a Gothic castle and…a beast?
When recently laid-off Francophile Veronica Carson is recommended for an au pair job by the elegant leader of her French conversation group, she isn’t sure what to expect—but a Gothic castle deep in the wilds of Maine is certainly not it. Still, she’s drawn in by her joyful little charge, Jean-Philippe, and even more drawn to his brooding father.
Ruthlessly successful businessman Alain Reynard has loved before and has no wish to repeat the painful experience. The tragedy of his recent past is still fresh in his mind, and he wants nothing to do with his son’s lovely new au pair. Despite his best efforts, though, he can’t seem to get her off his mind.
A passionate romance begins to blossom but is put to the test when painful reminders of Alain’s past return. As ugly rumors swirl, the truths of the past and the present collide. Veronica must decide if Alain really is a beast and, if so, whether she can love him enough to break through the dark memories and secrets that tether him to what once was.
Welcome Aurora! Please start off by telling us a little about yourself.
Hi Harlie! Thank you very much for having me! My name is Aurora Russell, and I’m originally from the Upper-Midwest, but I now live in northern New England with my awesome husband who could have been a lighthouse keeper in another life, my two wonderful young sons who make every day a wild adventure, and my surly but loveable cat. I’m the author of two contemporary romance novels with Totally Bound Publishing, and I have a third that will be released next month.
Is The Au Pair and the Beast a single title, or part of a series?
Currently it is a single title, and it can certainly stand alone, but I am actively working on a sequel, also inspired by a fairy tale. The hero of the sequel will be Alain’s, the hero of The Au Pair and the Beast’s, brother.
What were your inspirations for the story?
Growing up, I loved reading classic stories like Wuthering Heights, The Mysteries of Udolpho, and Rebecca and I have always loved the classic beauty and the beast theme as well. (I am a sucker for any book that describes the hero as a beast!) I grew up reading some of the classic Harlequin writers, too, like Betty Neels with her stoic but deeply caring Dutch heroes.
I thought it would be enormously fun to write a contemporary take on a Gothic beauty and the beast mystery story. When I imagined the main characters, they just sprang to life vividly in my imagination as a French father and son, Alain and Jean-Philippe, fleeing from their sad and mysterious past, with Veronica as a young American heroine who also has already known her fair share of grief as well. Some of Alain’s personality might pay modern homage to a Betty Neels Dutch doctor, too!
Please share your setting for The Au Pair and the Beast. Have you ever lived or visited there? If so, what did you like most?
The Au Pair and the Beast is set mostly in a castle on the Maine coast. It’s funny because as soon as I thought of writing a modern Gothic romance, I knew it had to be in Maine. I live in New England, so I am lucky to be able to visit Maine any time I want for a day trip, and I love it there, especially on the coast!
It is such a dramatic landscape, with tall, craggy cliffs being pounded by waves, green-gray salt-water spraying high up into the air. It just feels like the perfect backdrop for a contemporary Gothic romance. Also, it’s funny but my boys are HUGE fans of Aquaman in any format, so everyone is always up for a trip to visit a lighthouse (Aquaman’s origin is that he was raised in a lighthouse in Maine) so I was able to make a lot of trips for inspiration.
When did the writing bug first bite?
I would say that it bit me young and deep! Even when I was only 6 or 7 years old, I wrote stories for school and my family and friends. When I was in high school, I had notebooks full of stories, which were mostly mafia and historical YA romance, and then in college, I became briefly convinced that I would write the Great American Novel and suddenly all of my stories involved one or more of the main characters dying. After college, I realized that since I had always loved reading romance, maybe it would be fun to write it, and I have been having an amazing time being a romance novelist ever since!
Who are your favorite authors, book/series?
Great question! Over the years, I have read A LOT of romance novels, so it would be impossible to list all of my favorites, but I am a big fan of Christine Feehan (all of her series), Julia Quinn (I loved all of the Bridgerton novels and so I was thrilled when Netflix did an adaptation!), Robyn Carr (again, really enjoyed the Virgin River series, so super excited that it’s been adapted as a series on Netflix), and Evangeline Anderson (Kindred series especially for hot alien warriors!). I’m also a lifelong fan of D.H. Lawrence, Jane Austen, J.D. Salinger, and E.M. Forster, so I love to reread anything by these authors. There are so many amazing romance authors writing today, we are incredibly lucky!
If you could have an author roundtable discussion with any authors, who would you invite?
Ooh, that’s a tough one! If I’m allowed to have any authors, both living and deceased, I would definitely invite D.H. Lawrence and J.D. Salinger, because I have so many questions! Then, I’d love to have a conversation with Stephen King, even though I’m not generally a fan of horror, because he just seems so interesting! And of course I would have to invite Christine Feehan, Julia Quinn, Robyn Carr, and Evangeline Anderson. Finally, I would invite Richard Lovelace and Robert Frost, whose poems I have always loved for different reasons. It would be a weird roundtable, for sure!
Do you have any hobbies or special things you like to do in your spare time?
What spare time?? I can say that I truly love being a mom, and everywhere I go with my kids makes it seem like I’m seeing it again for the first time. We go to A LOT of museums, zoos, and aquariums (when we can – obviously it’s a bit different now), and I have also learned more about prehistoric mammals and reptiles than I ever expected to! As a former singer, I love music and still go to the occasional concert when I can.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve heard or seen?
Another great question! I definitely tend to be more of a Scully than a Mulder – I respect science and believe in it. However, I am pretty sure that I saw a real-life ghost hovering next to my bed when I was 19. Still gives me chills! Maybe that’s why I love paranormal novels so much…I’m fascinated by the possibilities.
What is the one thing that you would tell an inspiring writer to do?
DO IT! Write every day, even if you don’t think it’s any good, because it’s easier to edit and finetune your ideas than to regret not putting them down onto paper. Also, the feeling of accomplishment when you finish a novel is amazing. And don’t give up! I took a winding path with lots of detours, but I am really happy that I didn’t let myself get discouraged because I’m really happy with where I ended up.
This is so darn sweet, cute, and completely swoon-worthy. And I hate saying it’s cute but it really is cute. Ms. Russell does an excellent job with Alain and Veronica. Not to mention little Jean-Phillipe. Oh lord, how I wanted to babysit him for just one day. But here’s the thing about Jean-Phillipe…he is very much his own character. He is NOT just filler; he is an integral part of the romance and the overall plot point of the book. When you read it, you will know what I mean.
What is so endearing about the book is actually Alain. You feel his pain, his anger, and distrust but also the love of his child and the confusion of his growing feelings for Veronica. Ms. Russell could have made the romance more predictable but she let it slowly burn between them. Sweet and sexy is how I would describe Alain and Veronica’s romance. Sure, sure there are smexy times but the fun of all that is how they get there in the end. Ms. Russell takes her time and lets them have miscommunication without all the drama. Not to say there isn’t drama, there is but not until almost the very end.
I truly liked Veronica, too. A bit naive with men but she has a good heart, smart and the love she has for Jean Phillipe is strong. I loved the interaction between them. One thing that struck me with her was her sincerity. Worldy but naive. Sweet but found her naughty side. Also, very patient with Alain and lets him do the talking. In other words, she’s not pushy about finding out things about him. Of course, when the big misunderstanding comes, I really wanted to slap Alain. For me, that was the only time that the “Beast” really came out for me. The story that Veronica told Jean Phillipe…
I highly recommend Ms. Russell. Her writing style is truly fluid and she lets her characters tell the story, not her. I can’t wait to read Alain’s brother’s story next. 🙂
Alain’s look was inscrutable as he spoke to her. “I’m sorry. We’ve really continued to keep a totally French household, so Jean-Philippe hasn’t felt like things have changed much from one home to another, but…there are certain inconsistencies between us and American societal norms.”
Veronica shook her head, feeling bad that this was becoming such a big thing, when really, it was a very normal part of daily French life. It was certainly of no consequence to Alain, so why should it be to her? “Not a problem. I, ah…don’t mind.” She felt her cheeks burn hotter as she realized how that had sounded, so she hastened to explain. “I mean, I got used to being kissed when I was studying in Paris.”
Alain raised one dark eyebrow. He didn’t smile, but his eyes were amused. “Indeed?”
“Not…like that. It’s just that all my friends—older men, younger men, everyone—kissed me,” she stammered. “Women too, of course.”
Now Alain’s lips twitched, and Veronica realized she’d made it even worse.
She took a step closer. “I, ah…just go ahead,” she said, sticking her face forward and closing her eyes. Her heart pounded a deep tattoo in her chest.
She expected a quick, businesslike press of his cheek to each of hers, with an air kiss, but instead she felt his large, warm hands on her shoulders as he slowly kissed one hot cheek, then the other. His lips were incongruously soft. Before he stepped back, he said quietly, “I don’t mind, either.”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Aurora is originally from the frozen tundra of the upper-Midwest (ok, not frozen all the time!) but now loves living in New England with her real-life hero/husband, two wonderfully silly sons, and one of the most extraordinary cats she has ever had the pleasure to meet. But she still goes back to the Midwest to visit, just never in January. She doesn’t remember a time that she didn’t love to read, and has been writing stories since she learned how to hold a pencil. She has always liked the romantic scenes best in every book, story, and movie, so one day she decided to try her hand at writing her own romantic fiction, which changed her life in all the best ways. Find out more about Aurora, upcoming releases, and news at https://aurorarussellauthor.wordpress.com/
First for Romance: https://www.firstforromance.com/book/the-au-pair-and-the-beast
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE:
Aurora Russell will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
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