Codename Charming
Grade : B

Lucy Parker has become one of my favorite authors in recent years. Her characters always have tremendous chemistry, and no one writes a growly hero better than she does. Codename Charming has all of the trademark Lucy Parker elements, so it's definitely a fun read. But for anyone familiar with her work, it may start to feel formulaic and similar to her other books.

Petunia (Pet) De Vere is the new personal assistant for Prince Consort Johnny Marchmont, and despite its challenges she couldn't enjoy her job more. Johnny is sweet, if somewhat clumsy and awkward, and Pet's life is never dull as she manages his schedule and tries to aid in damage control after one of Johnny's legendary missteps. But that concept of helping with damage control is taken to a new level when Johnny's habit of repeatedly tripping and falling onto Pet has some rumors starting that they're romantically involved. Looking to quell the nonsense, the palace's PR team asks if she would be willing to go on a few public dates with Johnny's bodyguard Matthias Vaughn.

Matthias has had a thing for Pet (or "Button", as he adorably likes to call her) since they met, but has never considered that she would want to date him. A hulking mountain of a man with an unprepossessing face, he's more used to scaring people off than attracting them. So while he finds her sweet, it never occurs to Matthias that this perfect, kind, beautiful girl would be interested in him. But of course, as soon as they start going on their staged dates the attraction is palpable, and it's not long before their fake relationship is deliciously real.

While I loved the dynamite chemistry between Matthias and Pet, as I got further into the book I began to feel that the multiple plotlines happening in the story were a distraction from the fact that there is no underlying conflict. Pretty much as soon as the cockamamie scheme of Pet and Matthias fake-dating is cooked up, it becomes a moot point, as they are clearly dating for real. Then there is a storyline about Pet and Matthias finding their true families - Pet is trying to figure out who her real father is (she knows she was the product of one of her mother's affairs), while Matthias has been distancing himself from the closest thing he has to a family due to guilt over a family tragedy. I was happy to be along for the ride on these journeys of self-discovery, but again there is not much confilct or tension, just a sense of waiting for the situation to resolve itself in the expected way.

It's possible, even likely, that someone less familiar with Parker's work won't notice this issue. Pet and Matthias certainly get up to a lot of fun, distracting hi-jinks - including one memorable occasion involving a stolen parakeet and a salacious affair, which is hilarious. But having read all of the author’s backlist, I was unable to escape the realization that Pet and Mattias read very much like her other couples (sweet and vulnerable heroine, tough and grumbly hero - my favorite pairing). And once I noticed that, the issues with other plot elements came into sharp relief.

To be clear, I would still absolutely recommend this book to anyone looking for a light beach read, or who has never read Lucy Parker's work before. The characters are just so much fun, and the build up of tension between the hero and heroine is one of the things she does best. But sadly, as a long time fan of her work, I must admit that Codename Charming did not meet the (admittedly very high!) bar I have set for this author.

Reviewed by Alexandra Anderson
Grade : B

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : August 21, 2023

Publication Date: 08/2023

Recent Comments …

  1. Having that problem too – just now, hugely enjoyed Spite House by Olivia Dade, m/f CR done wonderfully. Strong rec.

  2. I really didn’t think you were criticising anyone, so we’re good! There was a discussion on AAR some time ago…

  3. But, queer romance are as real to me as non-queer, so I still don’t understand your thinking. I still want…

Alexandra Anderson

College student by day. Book enthusiast around the clock. With any luck I'll eventually be able to afford food AND books. But I've got my priorities straight.
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