The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun: Reality Dating, Mental Illness, and Adorable Assholes in Love

There is nothing I love more than love between two people who so utterly and completely deserve it and that describes Dev and Charlie perfectly.

This book! These characters. Goddamn it’s good. I don’t think I have read a book that portrays depression and anxiety so accurately. Especially not a romance.

It’s beautiful and sweet and complicated and tore my heart in two but sewed it back together again.

Ok, let’s get to the review!

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

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 open up to 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.

Charlie is an anxious, awkward tech dude with OCD who struggles with relationships and he really just wants to get his job back. Or get a job in his industry. So what is he doing on the reality dating show, Ever After?? Well, he is hoping it helps his reputation and will get him a job.

But it’s much harder than he expected. He finds it hard to open up to the contestants, doesn’t love being touched, and practically runs away when one of them tries to kiss him.

That’s where Dev comes in. He is Charlie’s handler/behind-the-scenes helper. He believes in true love despite not finding it himself. He works for the show because he believes they help people find love.

Well, this season, it’s Dev’s job to get Charlie comfortable enough to open up to the women contestants and look appealing to the audience at home. Through the time they spend together, Dev discovers more about Charlie. About his life, about his mental illness, and about his past. This helps him better understand Charlie and help him through the dating process.

But they also happen to be staying in the same suite/hotel room/place throughout the filming of the show. And the more they spend time together, the more they bond and the more they realize HOLY FUCK, I THINK I HAVE FEELINGS FOR HIM.

As they begin to understand their feelings for each other and that those feelings are reciprocated, they begin a romantic relationship. Which…as you can imagine, is incredibly difficult to do when they can’t let anyone on the show know. But they make it work.

And they are cute and passionate and totally oblivious to how obvious it is that they care for each other lol. People find out but it goes pretty well.

It’s not people finding out about them that leads to the problems that come up. It’s Dev and Charlie themselves. Their pasts, their inner demons, and what they think they deserve. As someone who occasionally questions their lovability, I totally understood this aspect of Charlie and Dev’s characters.

Although, just because I understood it doesn’t mean I wasn’t yelling JUST BE TOGETHER!! COMMUNICATE!! STOP RUNNING AWAY FROM YOUR FEELINGS!! WTF DEV?!?! CHARLIE, GO AFTER HIM!!

But this is a romance so of course they come back together and the way they do is so perfect and so them. It’s romantic AF and chaotic and so goddamn wonderful.

Charlie and Dev, through Alison Cochrun’s writing, imprint themselves on your heart while you read this story. They are perfect in their imperfections.

I’ve read books that have mental illness rep before, but not many of them have felt so completely real and right and true for me.

Reading Charlie’s characterization was like being punched. I don’t have his same mental illnesses, but damn, it felt like looking in a mirror.

AND DEV! I love him and his belief in true love and his doubts about himself and his utter belief in Charlie’s amazingness.

The supporting characters are incredible too. Jules is amazing with her snark and her care for Dev and Charlie. She also felt highly relatable to me. Parisa is possibly the best supporting character to ever exist. I LOVE how much she cares for Charlie and how much she’s willing to do for him. She is THE BEST. I also love Skylar and Ryan and Daphne and Angie!! They are all so wonderful and I would probably kill someone to get a Daphne book.

I also really like how the book explores reality dating shows, how they exploit people, and how footage can be manipulated to look a certain way. It’s a really interesting part of the book and not something I’ve seen explored before.

If it wasn’t obvious, I’m giving The Charm Offensive 5 out of 5 stars. If you’re looking for a fun, complicated, beautiful contemporary romance with Bachelor vibes, PLEASE read this book!

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun is available now!

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for the free eARC in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to support me, buying me a strawberry milkshake (or a kofi, whatever) goes a long way to keeping this blog up and making my life a little more stable. Love you all!

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4 thoughts on “The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun: Reality Dating, Mental Illness, and Adorable Assholes in Love

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