Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.
Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.
As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.
In this witty and heartwarming romantic comedy—reminiscent of Red, White & Royal Blue and One to Watch—an awkward tech wunderkind on a reality dating show goes off-script when sparks fly with his producer.
[I received a digital arc for an honest review]
The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun is a romantic comedy that brings a fairy tale believing TV producer together with his worst nightmare, a tech genius who doesn’t believe in love and is about to star on a reality dating show. Dev Deshpande loves his job on Ever After where he helps people meet their true love in a fairy tale setting. He is given the job of keeping Charlie Winshaw in line after the show gets off to a rocky start. Charlie is trying to rebuild his image and get back to work. When his publicist and best friend convinces him to do the show he hopes he can make it through it unscathed and with no panic attacks. This goes down hill quickly and he finds the only bright spot is his producer and handler Dev. Dev gets Charlie to open up to him and they “practice” dating so Charlie can look more comfortable on air. But practice leads to so much more and then men are faced with the question of can their lives work together outside the bubble of Ever After.
Charlie Winshaw broke my heart and put it back together again throughout this book. He was so painfully awkward yet so sweet that even when he did the wrong thing I just wanted to hug him. He is honest with Dev from the start about his struggles with mental illness and although Dev strives to push him outside of his comfort zone he still respects that there are boundaries with Charlie that shouldn’t be crossed. Intimacy between Charlie and Dev wasn’t just about bedroom antics but so much more with snuggling and little kind things they would do for each other.
“Charlie hates kissing, so why is he kissing Dev like his whole life depends on it?
Charlie is straight, so why would he want to kiss Dev?
Charlie is Charlie – beautiful, brilliant, carefully guarded Charlie – so why would he want to kiss Dev?”
Dev Deshpande loves his job and helping the men and women on the show find love. He believes in love and ends up believing that with his help he can help Charlie find love with one of the contestants. This job becomes so much more difficult as he falls hard for Charlie and deals with the repercussions on his mental health of watching Charlie romance the ladies. Dev makes the tough choices that lead to hurting each other over and over which as much as I cringed with sadness I understood.
“He’s not sure he could’ve experienced this with anyone but Dev. Dev, who sees him, who tried to connect with him emotionally, from the first night. Who never accepted his stammering or his evasiveness. Who pushed and pushed and kept pushing until he bulldozed his way right inside Charlie’s heart.”
This book highlights mental illness in so many different ways and brings to light the fact that it’s not always pretty and can be hard to read. There is also so much LGBTQIA+ representation among the characters and Charlie works through where he falls on the queer spectrum. With a great collection of side characters supporting Charlie and Dev through their trials and tribulations as the reader you wish you could be friends with them all. Overall I enjoyed the way the book was broken into the weeks of filming and the small sections of filming script (I’m a big fan of mixed media within books).
5 stars for Charlie and Dev opening up and embracing who they are and each other in this sweet romantic comedy.