Cover Image: The Family Friend

The Family Friend

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Member Reviews

I was so interested in the synopsis of The Family Friend, and the social media/insta fame that this book based its story on. But it was a bit for me. I can’t quite place my finger on why. 

I was really interested in the premise which focuses on a mom who becomes consumed by social media and insta-fame, while a stranger moves into her house. I thought the social media parts were well presented, I believed in the main character's online personality and her group of friends. 

It’s very slow paced, I like a fast paced moving story. The story seemed to drag and some of the things that happen are too far fetched to be reality.  I was waiting for something to happen and for the main story to start and it just seemed to be missing for me. 

I’m sure others will enjoy and love it.
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The Family Friend is an intense psychological thriller about internet stalking, the struggles of having a young family and the impact of online bullying.

Rafael (Raf) Donadoni, an Italian interior designer, his fiancée Erin Braune and their nine-month-old son, Bobby live on the south coast of England. Struggling to bond with little Bobby, Erin is frustrated as well as consumed by guilt because she cannot seem to feel any love for him. Raf, on the other hand, spends quality time with Bobby, even sleeping with him at night but he doesn't understand Erin’s apathy and increasing hostility towards the baby which is putting a strain on their relationship. A stay at home mum, Erin relies on Raf to keep the money rolling in, but becomes interested in being an Instamum and begins posting snippets, pictures and videos online to share a seemingly perfect life. As she rapidly builds a massive following her corporate sponsorships give her the opportunity to start earning serious money. Before long Erin is targeted by an internet troll who seems to be following her around in real life, snapping photos of her that are damaging to her image and sharing them online. Meanwhile, Amanda, an old friend of Raf's turns up from Australia and seems to bond immediately with baby Bobby. As Erin wonders what Amanda's presence could mean for her and her family a devastatingly revealing video is posted online.

Laced with malice, this is a riveting, compulsive and drama-filled domestic thriller with a great narrative featuring issues of social media addiction, abuse, obsession, secrets, jealousy, mental health issues and toxic behaviour. Dark and unsettling, C.C. MacDonald's execution of this cautionary tale is first-class. A superbly told, captivating, very highly recommended read.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel at my request from Harvill Secker via NetGalley. This review is my own unbiased opinion.
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Firstly a big thank you to the publishers for my copy to review on netgalley. This is a new author for me and will definitely be reading more from him.

I raced through this fantastic psychological thriller. Having a baby is tough but having a baby while under the watchful eye of your Instagram followers must be even tougher!

Erin is trying to have it all but she could be risking it all.. who can she trust? Who is telling the truth ? And is she really being the best parent she can be…

A intense twisty roller coaster of a book that you can’t foresee what’s coming. Fast paced and will leave your heart racing.

Published 4th March
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Erin lives an idyllic life by the seaside with her baby boy and Australian fiancée. She's upbeat and happy - a natural mum. At least that's what her thousands of followers on Instagram think.

In the real world, Erin is struggling with anxiety and finding it difficult to connect with her screaming son. So when a famous agent offers to make her the biggest Instamum out there, she's over the moon. And when Amanda, a family friend who's visiting from Australia, says she'll move in and babysit to help make it happen, it seems like the stars have finally aligned for Erin's exciting new career. 

But when a devastatingly revealing video is posted online by an anonymous troll, Erin's brought crashing back to earth. As everything she's worked for starts to slip away, Erin must find out how far she can trust those closest to her...

I did enjoy reading this book but I felt that it lacked the suspense and the domestic noir that the synopsis promised 

The story follows Erin, an influencer, and her life. This story did actually make me reassess my life and look at how much time I actually spend on social media and wonder whether it it worth it half the time. As a society now, we are obssesed with social media and likes and popularity. And at the end of the day; as we learn in this book; does it actually really matter. We are not living the day and making memories with loved ones 

It was interesting to read just how many clues Erin missed out on because of her social media interest. I think the author did an excellent job at portraying Erin as a character. She was not likeable and I don’t think we are meant to like her 

The book is very slow burner and as mentioned previously I did not feel the suspense 

However, the book and story was interesting and I would recommend this book
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I've read a few thrillers recently that involve social media, and as someone who works in digital and follows a few 'influencers' this really fascinates me.

This was an interesting premise and left me feeling unnerved at times. I did struggle because I found the characters slightly unbelievable and a bit frustrating. The relationships, even between characters who were supposed to know each other well, felt stilted. I struggled to keep going with the book at times because the plot wasn't enough to make up for this. There was a lot of detail thrown at the reader and I think the book definitely could have been shorter. It seems common with thrillers to try to pad it out but it can just leave the reader feeling annoyed, especially if it's not particularly enjoyable in the first place.

I think I would try another book by MacDonald in the future though, I think it's probably unfortunate that a lot of similar books are out at the moment.
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I was really interested in the premise which focuses on a mom who becomes consumed by social media and insta-fame, while a stranger moves into her house. I thought the social media parts were well presented, I believed in the main character's online personality and her group of friends. 

I liked the writing but I thought the pacing is slow. Not much happens other than the main character being suspicious. I also felt she was passive and it was hard to root for her because she makes questionable decisions. I didn't believe in the characters' motivations because they keep changing their minds within a single conversation. I don't mind when plots are a little far-fetched but I didn't really buy the ending and there were no surprises. I did think the book does a good job showing how manipulation and gaslighting work. But I wish the story is more exciting.
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The Family Friend was a book that really appealed to me as I love these types of stories, but I am sad to say that I could not finish this. The premise was promising but I could not connect with it or it’s cast of characters. I did enjoy the style of writing and based on this would read another book from the author. I wish C.C MacDonald all the best with it.

As I don't believe in publishing negative reviews, this will not be added to my blog or retail sites..

Thank you to C.C. MacDonald, Random House and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of The Family Friend, which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily.
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This story follows the life of Erin, Insta-Mum and influencer in the making, as she struggles to juggle her Insta-perfect expectations of motherhood with the reality of a screaming, demanding and not always easy to contend with 11 month old. Throw in an online troll and the sudden appearance of her fiancé’s old friend in to the mix, and you have the potential for utter disaster.

As a fan of Insta, and someone who spends a certain amount of time curating content for Bookstagram, I knew parts of this would really intrigue me.  The ideas around real life versus fake life, the genuineness of relationships, the pros and cons of sharing too much information online etcetera were all handled well.

Equally, I was heartened to see a clear arc surrounding maternal health and the struggle to adapt to parenthood.  I feel that both of these issues are vitally important, and for the largest part, hugely linked.  I know, as a mother myself, that it’s easy to assume everyone else totally “has it,” whilst you’re covered in baby puke and on day 79 of using dry shampoo.

However, as the book progressed, I felt like there was a bit too much going on.  So many different elements that had to be touched on that actually it all lost any of its potency and, for me, became a little gimmicky.  A tried and tested nod to the Mums; there, we talked a bit about post-natal depression, I can tick that off now.  Perhaps I’m just cynical (entirely plausible, I’m of an age where it becomes a little bit of a hazard), but it became a bit tedious in the end.

Largely, I disliked the main character of Erin – she was so one-dimensional that I couldn’t really get to grips with her.  I never felt like I “got” her personality or motivations, and in the end, felt quite bored by her.  The wonderful parts of her character, that was allegedly turning her in to an Insta sensation, just never came through, so for the largest part, the whole thing just didn’t make any sense to me.

As for the actual story itself – it seemed convoluted and by 70% of the way through a whole lot still hadn’t happened.  This is an exceptionally slowly paced read, and ultimately I found it quite a struggle to finish. That said, this is one of those situations where I’m glad I did persevere, as the idea behind the “twist” (meh – not really, it wasn’t obvious as such, but there was no big OMG moment either) is very good – it just took far too long to get there.

Ultimately, I can see why people have enjoyed this, and why others have struggled.  It is very middle-of-the-road and I have no doubt, if you asked me to write a synopsis in three months, I’d barely remember a thing.  It could have been so much better, but as a debut, it’s a solid start.  I’d give one more book a go by this author to see how the style develops (dialogue needs some work, in my humble!).
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The Family Friend was a book that appealed to me straight away. A face from the past where you couldn’t decide if they were friend or foe, a family with a young baby learning to adapt and the increasingly popularity of social media influencers. It was the latter of these that interested me most, like many I am dubious about the reliability of influencers and how genuine those who get paid a fortune to promote a product are. 

Erin was somebody I would definitely describe as an unreliable narrator and at first I didn’t like her at all. She seemed more obsessed with her on screen image and number of followers than she did with her baby. But as the novel progressed and she started to spend less time on screen and more time bonding with Bobby I liked her more. And I felt that she liked herself more too, she was definitely a character who was too hard on herself.

This novel is all about manipulation. The way the public are made to believe what they see on social media and the effect that the desire to be seen had on Erin’s life. And there are also glimpses of a diary from the past where a different side of control was shown. 

It isn’t an easy novel to read but it is one I would recommend.
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I continued reading this book because I kindly received a copy from the publisher and Netgalley. I'm happy I did because thanks to this persistence I can recognise this novel for what it's trying to do. It's just not for me. 

This story is about Erin, Raf and baby Bobby who live in a quiet seaside town near London. One day Amanda, Raf's childhood friend from Australia comes to visit. Erin is getting more and more enthralled in her Instagram account where she is posting happy mum photos, that Amanda is a very welcome babysitter. That is until Erin has a stalker who is taking sneaky photos of her and the baby, she's suddenly starting to wonder about Amanda's arrival. 

I wouldn't have called it much of a thriller when I started the book, but there are plenty of twists and turns and a bit of a suspense element. 

The dialogues start off stilted, but the writing gets better as the story progresses. The setting in a small town is great and Amanda is a really interesting character. 

I don't like books about insecure women who start doubting everything around them and who become consumed by an investigation. I also don't really enjoy novels about people who want to attain Insta-fame. 

I think there will be plenty of people who will like this novel, so don't mind my very personal star rating but check out the description and decide if it's for you or not. Believe me, it is a bit of a rollercoaster and there are plenty of suspenseful elements.
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This is a very modern day scenario - Instagram, followers, instant fame and with it trolls. Erin is keen to become famous on line at the same time as she is struggling with motherhood and bonding with her young son. Add to this the effect it has on her relationship with her fiance, Raf, and the appearance of an old friend of Raf's and problems begin. For me there are too many issues addressed in this title, although it did keep me reading. I found it became rather confused at the end and was wrapped up rather too quickly.
Many thanks to Netgalley/C.C. MacDonald/Random House UK for a digital copy of this title. All opinions expressed are my own.
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The Family Friend was quite raw in the portrayal of Erin. Her experiences with motherhood could be quite uncomfortable to read, and the need for Erin to present a perfect facade of family life through social media is pretty real. 

When Amanda arrives claiming to be a childhood friend to Erin’s husband, she seems like a gift, brilliant with the baby and seemingly friendly with Erin. When someone begins to post negative things about Erin, she begins to suspect Amanda is not all that she seems.

I wasn’t expecting the story to go along the lines it did at the end of the book; I am happy I was surprised, it was a very good read.
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Oh hell, I didn't expect that! The book makes a huge critic about social media (instagram) and how that affects your real life, the struggles of a young family. Really liked how the instagram bit was portrait. Also, the way Erin was always suspicious but never quite there to get the answers she needed. For someone who doesn't read a lot of thrillers this one will do the job of letting you on the edge of your seat and making loads of theories.
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Thank you to the author, publisher and NetGalley for providing an ARC of this book.

A creepy read that shows just how easy it can be to manipulate people. The whole Insta mummies thing isn’t my cup of tea so I found it hard to relate to some parts but I still enjoyed the book.
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Many thanks to Net Galley, Penguin Random House UK and the author for a chance to read and review this book. All opinions are expressed voluntarily.

The Family Friend by C. C. MacDonald is a psychological thriller focused on the perils of social media. YES, we have all been there, I bet there are millions amongst us who are so tuned into instant fame thru any social media handles that smart phones have somehow become an extra hand instead of an electronic device. The change from wanting to check the phone to being so needful of it and addicted to it is surprisingly so real that all of a sudden tour companies have started tagging #digitaldetox as the new trend for vacation. Of course, the pandemic hasn’t helped matters at all, making an already bad condition to worse.

Erin is an insta-mum who projects a happy cool façade to the world but is truthfully struggling with her 9-month-old son Bobby. Her partner Raf is trying to make ends meet and Erin is determined to make something out of her Instagram account and earn money out of it. The need for validation from strangers has Erin totally hooked into her social media but it is also her intense desire to give meaning to her life where she has always wanted to be an actor par excellence. But achieving fame comes with a price as troll videos of her less than happy moments surfaces. The arrival of Amanda, Raf’s friend from Australia is a god-send but paranoia grips Erin and things goes downhill soon.

The Family Friend has a solid story showing the readers about the pain of social media fame, and the effort it takes to maintain status quo especially with a child who knows only to scream his head off every single time. There’s also a journal of a young girl whose entries gives us the creeps. The story however fails to offer much in the ‘thrill’ element as the plot is honestly predictable for seasoned readers. It takes about more than half of the book for some action to happen coz of which there’s not much heart thumping ride that’s expected from a psychological thriller. So instead of the “OH, MY” moment at the end, the climax fell a bit short for me.

Going with 3 stars ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ for this one.

This review is published in my blog, Goodreads, Amazon India and Twitter.
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The Family Friend is an intense and enthralling psychological thriller about the terror of having an internet stalker, the struggles of a young family and the impact of relentless online bullying. We all should really know by now that the representation of themselves and their lives people show in posts online are rarely ever close to the truth. Erin Braune, her fiancé Rafael ”Raf” Donadoni, a hunky Italian interior designer, and their nine-month-old son, Bobby live on the southern coast of England. Struggling to bond with the baby, Erin becomes frustrated at his almost constant screaming and bawling and doesn't appear to know how to calm the little man down as it's her firstborn and she is consumed by guilt as she cannot seem to feel love for him regardless of how hard she tries. Wishing she could escape for some alone time, Erin finds that Raf spends more quality time with the baby than she does; he even sleeps with him at night but Erin’s apathy and increasing hostility towards the child confuse Raf and he doesn't understand how a mother can act like that having been granted such a precious gift. Naturally, this puts a strain on their relationship and it becomes both awkward and uncomfortable at times. She relies on Raf to keep the money rolling in as she is an unemployed stay at home mum and up to her neck in student debt. Erin is a failed thespian who missed the opportunity of a lifetime by being on holiday at the time she was contacted about a role. She becomes interested in being an insta-mom and begins posting snippets, pictures and videos online to share with the world her seemingly perfect life but we all know it is merely a facade.

She rapidly builds a following who adore her for her wholesome, funny and life-affirming posts and soon reaches 100k likes resulting in some lucrative offers. She's offered representation from an agent and also corporate sponsorships which give her the opportunity to start earning money again. @BRAUNEoverBRAINS is her handle where she claims to be a sunny mummy to Bobby. Salty sea-dweller. Reformed thespian. But her online persona is very different from that in reality. However, being in the spotlight isn't always a positive thing; Erin is targeted by an internet troll who also seems to stalk her in real life taking photographs of her that will damage the perfect, relatable portrayal of herself and spreading them online. Then there was the video. One day when Erin arrives home having attended a mummy bloggers weekend retreat she finds Amanda, an old friend of Raf's from Australia, has called in and appears to have already bonded with Bobby. Who is she and why is she here? This thought soon goes out the window when Amanda offers to babysit so Erin can attend networking events, a crucial part of growing your insta brand. But Amanda seems to be taking an unhealthy interest in her family and Erin begins to wonder if she is the stalker? This is a riveting, compulsive and drama-filled domestic thriller with a wickedly twisty narrative featuring issues of social media addiction, obsession, jealousy, secrets, abuse, mental health issues and toxic behaviour. It's a dark and unsettling cautionary tale highlighting the disturbed people who prowl the internet. A superbly woven, captivating and engrossing read. Highly recommended.
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This will be a short review explaining my reasons for DNF - a book about how people get wrapped into social media should be interesting for a blogger. Our online and actual personas are increasingly blurred and there is a danger we get wrapped too much in likes for that lovely dopamine hit. In this story we meet Erin a popular social media star juggling online life with a new family. Her world is about to implode and someone is trying to destroy her.

This unfortunately became a quick turn-off. The introduction of this novel was pure information overload and while this may have been designed to show the hurly burley of life instead it felt like a colossal piece of non stop exposition as to who everyone is rather than letting us adjust naturally to the tale; Erin’s dual life and the family dynamics . The dialogue in particular between the main characters who all either knew each other or were strangers was especially clunky. I’m never a fan of books that decide to tell you everything in one go and this just felt full of ‘things you will need to know for later’ couldn’t grab my attention and just not the right kind of thriller for me. Disappointing
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There seem to be a few thrillers about at the moment based around online influencers, and this is another - the main character, Erin, is a 'mum-fluencer' with a new baby and an apparently perfect life. It all goes pear shaped when a beautiful family friend of her husband's comes to stay. I found this one a bit of a struggle at times, as it was quite slow moving and the main character makes a series of stress-inducingly dodgy choices. It is well written,  but for me the plot was a bit lacking, and it didn't really grab me.
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On the surface this was an ideal book for me and I love the author's books but none of the characters really grabbed me.  
It was an easy read but not as compelling as others that I have read. 

I was given an advance copy of the book but the review is all my own.
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Erin is a mum, living by the sea with her fiancé Raf. when looking at Erin’s Instagram it would easily fool you into thinking she is living the perfect life. With thousands of followers, her posts suggest she is super mum, managing to have it all, whilst remaining upbeat and happy. However, in reality Erin is struggling with anxiety, finding connecting with her son challenging and is estranged from her family. 

One day Erin gets home from a retreat to find Amanda, at their house. Raf explains Amanda is a family friend, from Australia. Having never heard of Amanda, Erin finds this strange at first. However, these suspicious thoughts quickly turn to gratitude when a famous agent offers to help Erin with her Instagram career and Amanda offers to move in and babysit. 

However, the novelty of Erin’s new career soon wares off, when she begins to get trolled. Videos are posted which not only leads to a backlash from her followers, but her agent isn’t happy. To make matters worse these videos could have only been taken by someone close to Erin, leaving her second guessing all those closest to her.  

The Family Friend is a modern-day thriller, which could have done with a bit more thrill. From a thriller you expect twists and turns, but unfortunately the twists and turns failed to surprise and the plot was predictable. 

Whilst the plot wasn’t amazing, I did still find this novel easy to read and enjoy the level of detail C.C. McDonald writes in. The immaculate detail really impacted the way I perceived the characters. For example, at first, I failed to connect with Erin, I wanted her to get off her phone (hypocritical really!), but the detail used to describe the trolling she experienced, as well as the details used to describe her anxiety, particularly around the other mum’s, really made me feel for her. I found myself feeling as though I was in her shoes and could really sense these worries and fears. 

The themes which were discussed throughout The Family Friend I found very relevant and relatable to today’s society. These themes included social media vs reality, trolling, anxiety, being a new parent and control in relationships. Pretty much all of us have a different persona online, and if you think you don’t then ask yourself how often you post about your worst days. Not to mention, those who feel parenting does not come naturally to them often feel too afraid and guilty to admit it, particularly when on social media it looks like all the other parents are doing everything swimmingly perfect. Therefore, I thought it was an important portrayal, which is not often seen, or if it is it is normally a bad character (think wicked non-maternal stepmothers in fairy tales). I would hope that Erin’s characterisation would make at least one new mum feel a little less alone/guilty.  

Overall, I would give The Family Friend 4/5 stars. It was well written, an easy read, discussed important issues, it would have just been nice to have a little less predictability.  

Thank you to Random House UK and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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