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.
There are plenty of “love” themed reality shows on television, and even if you’ve never watched a single episode of the most popular and long-running program in the genre, I’m sure you have some sort of vague familiarity with the format.
So, having a book where “Prince Charming” falls in love with his handler/producer instead of one of the contestants, is a delightful subversion of the classic trope. Not only does it challenge the heteronormative aspect of the format, but it also questions the validity of these “love matches” as well as the authenticity of the romance themed reality television.
And the best thing is that Cochrun achieves this goal is the most charming way possible: I will never get over Dev and Charlie dating and kissing etc. “for practice” to help Charlie adjust to the idea of doing those things on the show.
“For practice”—Sure, Jan.
Having the show set during the filming of a reality show was a fun twist. The show is filmed in several different locations around the world, and not just the “hometown visits” of the final contestants. Some of the contestants fall nicely into the role of secondary character, and so it’s interesting to see them interacting with Charlie.
Fun and games aside, this book provides an honest and unflinching look at neurodivergence, OCD, and depression, and it’s so refreshing to not only see protagonists dealing with these issues, but also that love does not cure either man. Their mutual empathy for each other is heartwarming though, and a lovely example of a supportive relationship.
On that note, it was also pleasant to see representation regarding asexuality and demisexuality. This was especially notable as Charlie tried to sort out his confused feelings of feeling attracted to Dev rather than any of the women on the show.
I would absolutely recommend The Charm Offensive. This book was a delight from start to finish: it made me laugh and it broke my heart and then it wrapped everything up with one of the most spectacular HEAs I’ve ever encountered. This is an amazing debut novel, and I can’t wait to read more from Cochrun in the future.
I received a digital ARC of this book from Atria Books/NetGalley.