“Charlie touches Dev like he doesn’t know where to start, like he’s overwhelmed by his options; Dev touches Charlie like he knows this is his only chance. He touches Charlie like Charlie is going to disappear at any second.”
Occasionally I read a book so good I just want to write “This book is awesome. Go buy it. The End.” as my review and leave it at that. This is definitely one of those books.
Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.
Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.
As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.
Folks, this is the book of my dreams and everything I wanted to read right now. Excellent character development? Check. Incredible and fun settings? Check. Great plot that I can get behind? You betcha. This book has it all.
The characters in this book are fantastic. I loved both Dev and Charlie. Dev is a complete romantic as well as a workaholic and a stress eater. Charlie has never felt attraction before, is not neurotypical and is a vegan. They are total opposites and yet work so well together as a couple. Their chemistry is super steamy and I couldn’t get enough of it. The book is told from alternating viewpoints of both Dev and Charlie so we really get to know both of them as a reader. Plus, there is a whole cast of secondary characters to love like production assistant Jules and the fabulous Parisa, Charlie’s publicist and friend. Alison has proven that you can have characters full of depth and layers that are still totally lovable and entertaining to read.
Because the plot revolves around the filming of a reality T.V. show, the cast gets to visit remarkable locations all over the world and take readers with them. I loved all the details in places like New Orleans, Munich, Cape Town and Bali. I’ve already added a couple locations to my must-see list.
Speaking of the plot, even though it is pretty fantastical because being behind set on a reality T.V. show is not something most of us get to do, Alison keeps it believable by grounding it with characters who feel like regular people you know and love. Believable or not though, it is highly entertaining to have a behind the scenes look at the shenanigans of the cast and crew and how a production like that comes together. They also shed some light on the homophobia that happens in mainstream T.V. and I appreciated that that didn’t get glossed over.
This book doesn’t shy away from issues. You’ll find honest talk about mental health and sexual identity as various characters get to know themselves and each other better. Each concern is masterfully handled by Alison as she explores the issues through the eyes of the characters in a completely non-judgemental way. They help each other face their struggles and become better friends and people for it. Depression, anxiety, and many different sexual identities get some ‘screen time’ and I found myself learning a few things along the way because these things are experienced so differently by the characters. We are reminded that there is no right way to work through these things and that every experience is equally valid.
Top marks to Alison Cochrun in the creation of this completely delightful and worthwhile read.