The Charm Offensive takes the reality show idea and makes it original and heartwarming. What starts out as a man trying to be a prince and find true love with a woman turns into so much more. I was completely hooked on the characters, the experiences they were going through, and their emotions. So many emotions. All of it was very well done.
Charlie Winshaw is selected as the next Prince for a Bachelor type show however, it is quickly noticed that he does not have the charisma of a normal contestant looking for love. He’s shy, awkward, anxious, and in all honesty doesn’t even want to be there. He is there to try and redeem his image after a failed tech expansion. Dev Deshpande is a handler for the show and has been put in charge of molding Charlie and helping him find happiness. Dev believes wholeheartedly in the message of the show and is determined to make this work. The more time they spend together, they more a bond begins to form and their relationship starts to change. Dev tries to convince himself that it is for the good of the show and that he will sacrifice his own happiness if needed. He is a man who is used to making sacrifices for the things that he wants and he decides that this should be no exception.
From the beginning, I was hooked on the diversity of this story. There is so much representation – in race, in culture, and in sexuality – that is so nice to see in a contemporary story. Dev identifies as gay but Charlie has never investigated his sexuality. All of this new to him, and it is an even bigger surprise when he finds the connection that he does with Dev. I really liked the way that this was explored and opened up. It didn’t feel rushed and felt honest to me. There were also several side characters with varying identities who I became very fond of and enjoyed their roles in the story.
Mental health is also an important aspect of The Charm Offensive. When we meet Charlie, it is apparent that he has a low concept of self worth. He also demonstrates characteristics of OCD and anxiety. This is the opposite of a normal Prince Charming on a reality dating show. Dev also has a relatively low concept of self worth and has tried to hide the depth of his depression. Both characters have a couple of really dark periods that they work through together. I loved them as individual characters and as a potential couple. I found that they helped each other grow and were a perfect compliment for each other. The emotional moments between kept me captivated and waiting to see what happened next.
I really felt that Alison Couchrun wrote the diversity and mental health of The Charmed Offensive so well. The challenges which each of the characters encountered felt very real to me. The only slight hold back for me was that some of the moments in the story started feeling repetitive to me. Regardless, I was invested in the story and found it to be emotional, sweet, and addictive to read. I can’t wait to see what the author comes up with for her second novel. Maybe a sequel with one of the girls from the show? I would read that!
Rating: 4 Stars
**I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**