“The Charm Offensive” by Alison Cochran— When Sparks Fly

Cochrun, Alison. “The Charm Offensive: A Novel,Atria Books, 2021.

When Sparks Fly

Amos Lassen

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Dev Deshpande has spent his career creating the long-running reality dating show “Ever After”. He became the successful producer in the franchise’s history by writing scripts for the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life is in shambles. But then along came Charlie Winshaw whodoesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to star on the show as attempt to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s stiff, and has no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold and lacks emotion.

As Dev tries to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a worldwide tour, the two men begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars.

Dev’s six-year relationship with fellow producer Ryan recently ended. Charlie, the new bachelor is a former cologne model and tech mogul who (very) reluctantly agrees to go on the show but he is totally awkward.

Dev learns that social anxiety and Charlie do not mesh. As he tries to help Charlie tries to become more comfortable with being around people and interacting with the contestants. Dev is determined that Charlie will find love and propose to one of the contestants by the end of the season but he does not understand why the “practice dates” that they have been going on seem more intense than Charlie’s dates with the women. It also seems that Charlie see Dev as the person he is looking to connect with.

There are themes of rejection, self-doubt, self-identity, mental illness, sexual identity, morality, acceptance, and aspects of love throughout the novel. Cochrun has created a wonderful character in Dev who rescues Charlie’s broken life as Charlie rescues him. This is a fun look at gay love and the struggle withsocial anxiety and depression that many of us deal with.

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