I read The Charm Offensive back in July and I’m sad I didn’t sit down to write a review right away because I really loved this one, and it deserves a more nuanced discussion than I’m about to give it.
This book was vaguely on my radar when I put together my 2022 Read Harder Challenge TBR, and a quick search for romances with asexual protagonists secured its place on that list (one of the main characters is demisexual). The basic plot is that tech-genius Charlie (who is awkward and has a bad public image–for shitty reasons, may I add) goes on the the dating show Ever After (a very thinly disguised Bachelor analogue) to rehabilitate his image, but he’s far from the dashing, charming men the show usually features. In fact, he’s a mess. Dev is a producer on the show, and it’s his dream job. He’s been a fan since he was a kid, and he not so secretly longs for his own HEA. The two men bond whil Dev tries to help Charlie succeed on the show.
But what ends up happening of course is that the two fall for each other instead of Charlie falling for one of the women he’s supposed to be dating.
The premise is of course what drew me to this book, but I was so pleased to see that the author handled it with emotional care and thoughtfulness. The book is funny, too. It made me laugh out loud, which is rare. What ended up really getting me here is that Charlie really got to me emotionally, both because he’s a great character, and because I found him so relatable with his range of neurodivergences: OCD (check), his anxiety disorder (check), and being on the asexual spectrum (check). And though I am not on the autism spectrum, which Charlie almost assuredly is, I related very much to his social awkwardness. Is Charlie actually me? Potentially. Where is my Dev?
Literally the only reason I didn’t give this five stars is because I thought the third-act breakup felt inorganic. And even though I really, really liked the payoff of it, I wish she would have found a way to make that part of the book feel more realistic, like the rest of the book. (And I mean more like emotionally realistic; because this is a comedic book, there is absolutely stuff in here that is ridiculous, but purposely so.)
Also, I did the audio and enjoyed it very much. Vikas Adam (whose performance I recently hated in Lavender House but loved here) Graham Halstead, and Cassandra Campbell were very enjoyable narrators. (Cassandra Campbell narrates the mixed media portions of the novel: behind the scenes transcripts from the show, emails, etc, while Vikas Adam is Dev and Graham Halstead is Charlie.)
Chipping Away at Mt. TBR, July 2022—Book 20/31
Read Harder Challenge 2022: Read a book with an asexual or aromantic main character.