REVIEW: Codename Charming by Lucy Parker
Note: Mild spoilers for Battle Royal follow.
Dear Lucy Parker,
The second book in the Palace Insiders series, Codename Charming follows Petunia (Pet) De Vere, the sister of the hero from the first book, Battle Royal, and a bodyguard who works with her in the palace, Matthias Vaughn. By the end of the first book, Pet had commenced work as a PA to Johnny Marchmont, then-fiance of Princess Rose. She had also thwarted an attack by a stalker upon Johnny and had been seriously injured in the process. Matthias visits Pet in the hospital and brings her a teddy bear. (Obviously therefore, we readers knew this pair belonged together.) Codename Charming picks up around a year later.
Matthias isn’t exactly “grumpy”. He’s reserved and cautious, private and kind of starchy. Even on his days off within the palace he still wears a tie.
The man had probably laminated his copy of the protocol manual and carefully sponged the fingerprints from it every night.
He’s definitely in the right job because he’s also super protective. (Yum.) Pet is quite sunshiney. In many ways, she’s Matthias’s opposite; she throws herself into things – quite literally on many occasions – she’s open and colourful and very not-starchy.
They’re also physically opposite. He’s huge – tall and muscular with a wrestler’s build and she is petite. More than one person comments on their almost comical height difference. She may be small but she is fierce and mighty.
Pet stopped trying to disappear into the couch and turned to look at him.
Matthias couldn’t see her expression, but Benji retreated with the haste of a man who’d just been metaphorically separated from at least one testicle.
But they have many things in common too. Like Matthias, Pet is also protective of those she cares about. And, both of them, through different family experiences, felt very alone growing up.
Pet has recently reconnected with her brother Dominic but for most of her life she felt unloved. She has had a few short-term flings but nothing serious. She’s wondered if she’s even capable of the kind of romantic love her brother and his wife, Sophie, share.
Matthias, for his part, lost his parents in an accident at a young age and grew up in the foster system. He was fed and physically cared for but he, too, felt unloved and unwanted. He had a childhood friend in Ireland, where he spent many years with one foster family, and became close to Padraig’s family as a result. Matthias and Padraig joined the King’s Guard and later went into private personal protective work together. But something happened and Padraig died which haunts Matthias. Since then, Matthias has been even more reserved. It feels like everyone he loves dies. (Oh my heart!)
Life on “Team Marchmont” is never dull. Johnny has an unfortunate habit of extreme clumsiness which often result in disasters which go viral online. One such saw Pet being launched from a stage basically onto Matthias’ head. Fortunately he caught her. The paparazzi have been sniffing around and have become attracted to the notion that Johnny and Pet are having an affair. Nothing could be further from the truth of course, but Rosie and Johnny are concerned about the rumours and especially their potential effect on Pet in the long term. They propose “Codename Charming” – whereby Pet will pretend to date Matthias so the media will stop linking her and Johnny.
Pet had thought that Matthias didn’t really like her because he seemed to rebuff her attempts at friendship. Also, Pet has come up with a number of proposals for Johnny’s entertainment which Matthias had firmly vetoed as security risks. In fact, this is a regular occurrence so it’s not hard to see why Pet thinks Matthias disapproves of her. That’s not it of course.
Over the course of their fake relationship, Pet and Matthias come to acknowledge very real attraction and feelings – it doesn’t even really take long for fake and real to become blurry. There are a lot of knowing looks and more than one viral video of some PDA. During this time, Pet helps Matthias reconnect with found family from his past and Matthias helps Pet on a quest to possibly-maybe find out more about her biological father. Plus, there’s a glitter wand war. Yes, that’s what I said.
While Matthias is not terribly bothered by anyone else’s opinion of his looks (anymore at least), he knows he’s not handsome. Online they are often described as “beauty and the beast” – something that infuriates Pet even as she tries to shield him from it. To Pet though. Matthias is more than good-looking.
His flush had spread to the tips of his lovely, generous ears. She’d never not be enamored with how all his features were so substantial, like his physicality was a direct reflection of his inner self and integrity, vast from his feet to his heart.
While I think it was very much a me thing, I did have a little trouble getting into Codename Charming. There was no actual reason for it other than a capricious reading mood. However, after a while even that ceased to matter (one sign of a good book) as I became more and more charmed by this couple’s journey to HEA. I am a hero-centric reader and Matthias is kind of my catnip so it’s not a wonder I felt the way I did about him. Really, when he started calling Pet “Button” I got all melty. Pet was also wonderful; the kind of woman I’d love to spend time with. She’s funny, smart, generous, talented and kind. She’s also no pushover.
The thing I liked best about this book is something I can’t really talk about because spoilers. I’ll just say that the I loved the way it ended and leave it at that.