My book pick for Valentine’s Day is THE CHARM OFFENSIVE. This unforgettable delight is a biracial love story that hits every emotional chord and packs a serious punch on issues of sexuality and mental illness. Funny, sweet, tender—with heartbreaking interior monologues—it’s my favorite gay rom-com since RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE.
Charlie has the physique of a male model, but he’s an awkward tech genius battling OCD, generalized anxiety, and panic disorder. Despite his exceptional brain, he’s been bullied and belittled his entire life—even by his family. Now he’s been booted out of his own company for strange behavior that has blacklisted him from the tech world. If he wants to return to the work he loves—with code, not people—he needs a public relations makeover.
His publicist has the answer, and signs him up as the new Prince Charming on a reality TV show that peddles fairytale love. All he has to do is date 20 women in front of an audience of 20 million, and after months of filming, crown his future bride. There are two flaws with this plan: Charlie’s a germaphobe who hates to be touched, and social situations cause him to vomit or hide in bathrooms.
Enter Dev, his assigned handler on Ever After. Dev, a diehard romantic and the show’s biggest fan, has a talent for charming difficult contestants. Few people know that Happy Dev, adored by the crew, is an act that hides clinical depression. Unlike Charlie, Dev grew up with supportive parents, but he doesn’t want anyone to see the real him. “I’m fine,” is his favorite phrase, even while his personal life unravels and darkness beckons.
Charlie has no interest in sex or dating. His perfect evening means staying in to do puzzles. Dev wants the white-tux wedding, children, and his own happily-ever-after. Neither believe they deserve love, but while pretending to ignore their sexual chemistry—and doing puzzles—they constantly show up for each other.
The layers between them unfold beautifully, but before they can choose their future as a couple, they must embark on individual journeys of self-awareness. All this takes place in exotic locales with a quirky, lovable bunch of secondary characters, hot mics, and an ever-present camera crew.
I listened to the audiobook in record-breaking time, and then ordered the paperback.