Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3)
In The Charm Offensive, a TV producer for a The Bachelor-esque "reality" show is given the monumental task of making their newest "Prince" into someone America - and the bachelorettes - can fall in love with. The producers expected well-put together Charles - a genius media mogul who's been splashed across the tabloids - but what they get is a different version of Charlie, anxious, uncertain, and desperate to redeem himself in the public eye and get back to work.
As Dev begins to groom Charlie for TV, desperate to save the season and bring another love story to the small-screen, he begins to waiver, caught between making the show they all want and expect and keeping Charlie's anxiety as low as possible.
As the two of them spend more and more time together, they begin to build a friendship, until the story slips from getting Charlie the girl on TV, to Charlie getting the guy behind the scenes.
I thought this was a really cute idea, and I appreciated having a "soft" main character. It was a nice change of pace from the tough guys you normally see in romance books. Charlie and Dev were really cute together and their relationship and chemistry built up pretty naturally. I didn't have any issues actually seeing them together.
I really didn't have any issues with the writing. Cochrun changed it up a bit by throwing in "recordings" from taping the show and behind the scenes commentary from producers and the show runner. Sometimes I really wanted to skip these and sometimes I was able to see how they changed the tone of the story (and the show). But either way, I thought it was an interesting touch and smart foreshadowing.
I thought the dating show idea was cute. As someone who watched The Bachelor for a bunch of years with my family, it was funny to see the same tropes played out on the pages, and get to see the (imaginary) producers' thoughts about that type of show.
I think what I really liked was how the characters really worried about things. I guess that comes with anxiety and other mental health issues, but Dev and Charlie really thought through everything (and over-thought a lot of it). Charlie especially spent so much time in his head worrying that we got to know a lot about him, his anxiety, and the way he addresses the world. I relate to him a lot in that he didn't want to be seen as weak or less than, so he tried to hide a lot of what he felt and who he was in order to come across with a good image. He didn't just suddenly function differently; he put the work in - with Dev's help - to adjust.
Dev had his own issues and struggles, and I felt that it was well done for what it was, but I would've liked to see Dev handle things differently. The type of depression portrayed through Dev was realistic since depression makes people act all sorts of different ways, but I felt for someone like Dev, who was constantly moving, constantly trying to be at the top of his game, it would've been nice to see some signs of high-functioning depression. It felt a little bit like an on-off switch with Dev (which, granted, is realistic for some people), but I would've liked to see more small signs of depression surrounding the break up with his ex, given the fact he had to see the man everyday at work and often talked about it being difficult. His actions didn't match his words, and using his mental health in those moments would've really rounded out those scenes.
The ending is the main reason this book landed at three stars. Cochrun chose to finish the book in Dev's point of view, which I think was a bit of a let down. Without any spoilers, so much happened "behind the scenes." The entire ending was put together by characters other than Dev, so we really didn't get an active ending. It felt more like an epilogue than the final chapters of a novel.
I would've loved to see how the ending came together from another character's point of view. There was so much Cochrun could've shown us and so many emotions that could've went into that. Desperation, hope, longing, nerves, etc. But we spent the end of a book in the wrong point of view, and that really detracted from Dev and Charlie's story.