The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

“You’re deserving of a relationship in whatever form you want it.”

My streak of reading amazing books this year continues with The Charm Offensive! I seriously felt giddy for much of the story, it was so adorable and heartwarming, I couldn’t get enough of Dev and Charlie! Dev Deshpande has spent his entire career engineering perfect love stories for the contestants on the popular reality dating show, Ever After (think The Bachelor with a fairy tale twist). He loves a good love story even if he doesn’t think he’ll ever have his own. But then Charlie Winshaw shows up as this season’s “prince”. Charlie only agreed to star on the show with the hope of rehabilitating his image after some unfortunate events ousted him at the tech company he co-founded. He’s awkward, stiff, and basically, a disaster interacting with the twenty women vying for his attention. In order to save the season, Dev is assigned as Charlie’s handler/producer and is tasked with whipping this horribly awkward man into the prince charming he’s expected to be. But the more time they spend together, the more Charlie realizes that he’s got more chemistry with Dev than he does with any of the contestants. As sparks fly between these two, it’s tainted with the knowledge that their situation can only end with Charlie becoming engaged to one of his female co-stars. Will they figure out a way to re-write the script and find their true happily ever after?

It was a pretty safe bet that I was going to enjoy this book but I was surprised by how much I absolutely loved it. Charlie was the sweetest man and I was so sad for what he’s had to put up with throughout his life simply because his brain was wired a little differently than what society considers “normal”. He may not have gone on the show actually looking for love, but he did want nothing more than to be seen and accepted for who he was. Enter Dev Deshpande. From their first interaction, it was clear that Dev truly saw Charlie. Dev was so good with him, it warmed my heart how kind and gentle he was with Charlie. He never treated Charlie as less than or like he was damaged and it meant so much to Charlie to have someone on his side for once. Charlie was handsome, highly intelligent, and wealthy yet he still had the sweetest innocence to him. He just blossomed over the course of this story, it was like watching a beautiful butterfly emerge from its chrysalis. My heart was bursting with love for him throughout this entire story! 

I loved Charlie’s journey into figuring out his sexuality. Being on this show having all these women throwing themselves at him and then, on the flip side, his burgeoning relationship with Dev made him realize and question things that he never had to before and I just thought the whole thing was really well done. There were characters from all ends of the spectrum in this book and they all played a role in Charlie figuring out what he wanted. I also thought the focus on mental health in this story was important and well written. Both our main characters struggled with mental health issues, as well as many side characters, and this book touched on the importance of taking care of yourself and prioritizing your mental health as well as the fact that struggling with these issues shouldn’t preclude you from finding love – platonic or romantic.  

From start to finish this story was a delight! It had just enough drama (thanks to the nature of a reality television show and the forbidden aspect of Charlie and Dev’s relationship), plenty of humor, and loads of heart. I’m so glad I picked this one up, I’ll be thinking of Dev and Charlie for the foreseeable future!  

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