All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

on August 19, 2022

The Charm Offensive
Alison Cochrun
Atria Books
2021, 358p
Read via my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: 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. 

This was so darn cute.

I have never watched a single full episode of The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Love Island, Married At First Sight, etc. That sort of TV is just not for me and what I’ve seen of it has only been snippets shown on other shows, like Gogglebox. The show in this book, Ever After, is clearly The Bachelor and is many seasons deep when it casts disgraced tech genius Charlie Winshaw. Charlie agreed to do the show to help reform his image so that he might work in the field again after being basically dismissed from the company he himself helped create and build. Dev is a producer usually in charge of handling the female contestants but is moved to look after Charlie when it becomes obvious that Charlie is having trouble presenting his best self in front of the cameras.

Charlie suffers from extreme anxiety and also has OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He struggles to interact with the women, particularly during dates and moments where physicality is expected and it’s Dev’s job to help keep Charlie grounded and the two of them bond strongly. Dev doesn’t make Charlie feel like he is a burden and Charlie is able to open up to Dev about things that he’s never been able to confide in anyone before. But Dev is a diehard romantic who believes in the show’s power to create a fairytale, to create love even as he’s standing in the middle of scenes orchestrated by producers and open discussions of who to send home and who to keep for “drama”.

Charlie on the other hand, isn’t a big believer in love and definitely doesn’t think he’ll find it with one of the women on this show. They tend to make him awkward but the more time he spends with Dev, who helps him through his anxiety and struggles, the more they start to develop a connection. Dev is gay, but thinks Charlie is straight but Charlie doesn’t really know what he is but he knows that he has something with Dev. However Dev structures everything around the show – when he and Charlie have moments, he sees it as a way for Charlie to “practice” for his interactions with the women. Even though he’s definitely having strong feelings for Charlie, he doesn’t actually see them as a realistic option for the future – Charlie has a contract to pick a princess at the end of this show and everyone knows the love story the show has been building (except Dev is the only person who thinks that).

I just really liked the way this book incorporated Charlie’s anxiety and OCD as well as Dev’s mental health and how both of them never wanted to change or fix anything – they used expressions like ‘what can I do?’. Charlie has very severe social anxiety which definitely seems to have been exacerbated by a hostile family and situations in his work life where people have not sought to understand but instead to just remove him when his anxieties and struggles became seen as too much. Doing the show is supposed to be a way for Charlie to show the world that he can work again, repair his public image. Going on a show that would pretty much involve every single thing Charlie finds terrifying is brave but you get the feeling he doesn’t know what he is without his job and this is the best way he feels like he can get that back. Whilst he might not be intending to find his forever “Princess” going in, Charlie definitely finds a lot of things on the show and it also helps him see what might make him really happy.

I also liked the way the book portrayed the show, which is pretty much how I imagine it to be. The franchises are quite renown for the couples doing their “six month publicity tour” before quietly going their separate ways and although a few couples seem to have gone the distance, they seem quite few and far between. This book portrays pretty much every interaction as coached, manipulated and then edited to “tell the story” the producers want, rather than the story that would unfold on its own – which is why I really loved the way this ended.

Sweet as heck. Will 100% read Alison Cochrun’s next book.

8/10

Book #144 of 2022


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