It has never taken me three days to get past the first 20% of a Lucy Parker novel before. It might be my brain, it might be the book. Regardless, by the end, I was enjoying it very much. Much like Pet and Matthias, Codename Charming and I had a rough start, but we worked it out.
Pet De Vere endeared herself to Princess Rose when she stepped between an assailant and Rose’s fiancee, Johnny at the end of Battle Royal. Johnny’s personal protection officer, Matthias, held her hand and later brought her a teddy bear at the hospital. Experienced romance readers knew that Pet and Matthias would get their own book. Pet is now Johnny’s personal assistant and Matthias is still his bodyguard. They live in the palace staff quarters and work together frequently. Pet thinks Matthias finds her irritating. The reader knows he is pining in his silent, stoic way.
When tabloids decide to hype a rumor that Johnny is cheating on Rose (4th in line to the throne) with Pet, Rose and Johnny propose that Pet and Matthias fake date until the rumors die. Matthias agrees because he knows that the rumors will hurt Pet personally and professionally if they aren’t killed beyond a doubt.
Codename Charming is best for lovers of the slow burn romance. It has elements of Beauty and the Beast, not as a retelling, but in the fairy-tale that people who see their relationship through tabloids and social media build around them. Matthias is large and, according to other people, scary. Like Battle Royal, it’s also a romance steeped in grief and as with it’s predecessor, the knowledge of loss makes the vulnerability of romance sweeter.
There is an awful lot of cute and sweet in Codename Charming. Matthias loves cuddling, but only with Pet and there is a rather funny and sweet “are you happy to see me or do you have something in your pocket” scene. Matthias’ cat and a murder bird provide some non-human charm and levity. We get some time with familiar characters and I am hoping Melinda in security gets her own book.
I will note that I wish author’s would stop making characters who were raised in foster care emotionally unavailable. I see it so often that I assume the author doesn’t want to have to explain why their character is wary of relationships, so makes them a former foster kid.
CW: both main characters parents die before the book starts, parental neglect and abuse in the past, grief, wounds from violence in past, mild on page violence, harassment by press on and off page, mugging, discussion of a loved one’s death by violence in past, reference to animal abuse in past (cat survived), infidelity by side characters
I received this as an advance reader copy from Avon and Harper Voyager and NetGalley. My opinions are my own, freely and honestly given.