Codename Charming by Lucy Parker
Palace Insiders #2
Published on August 15, 2023 by Avon
Reviewed by Kate
Codename Charming is the second in Lucy Parker’s Palace Insiders. I was intrigued by the royal-adjacent romance that didn’t star any royals, even though I skipped the first in the series, Battle Royal. I was excited by the grumpy/sunshine premise and the fake dating and this book did not disappoint.
I am going to mention first off, however, that while Codename Charming has comedic moments (more than many books being sold as romantic comedies these days, honestly), it does touch on some more serious subjects, including grief. Both characters have very deeply woven backstories that show up in different ways as they are navigating their way to a happily ever after. Particularly Matthias, who has a lot of guilt due to surviving a knife attack that he lost his best friend to. And while I do believe that Codename Charming does a good job of balancing the serious with the not-so-serious, none of the serious stuff is mentioned in the description of the book, and it took me by surprise.
Codename Charming starts off with a funny situation, and manages to keep up the energy for the beginning, before it starts to delve into what can rightfully be called the traumatic incidents of our main characters’ pasts. When the book starts having Pet and Matthias work through some of their baggage, it started to drag a little for me. While I think that Pet was really crucial for some self-discovery on Matthias’s part, I don’t know how much Matthias was necessary for Pet’s backstory and the whole subplot about her absent/unknown father felt a little unnecessary, as it didn’t really pay off emotionally like I would have expected. I did enjoy seeing Matthias’s growth and how Pet fit into that, though, and especially enjoyed how she was protective of him even though he was the bodyguard.
Pet, Matthias, and the rest of the characters in the book are great. I really love Pet’s boss, Johnny, who is bumbling and wonderful and a large source of amusement. Dominic and Sylvie from Battle Royal show up, as Dominic is Pet’s previously estranged brother who she is beginning to build a relationship with, but I did not feel like I needed to have read the first book in order to appreciate their addition to Codename Charming.
That all being said, this was a really sweet romance and I did love the development of the relationship of Pet and Matthias. They were adorable together and I loved watching Matthias’s stoicism crumble in the face of Pet’s cuteness and competence. The quiet moments between Pet and Matthias were my favorites, and I really wish there could have been more of the everyday, instead of the dramatic scenes coming fast and furious.
In Codename Charming, Parker has created an amazing cast of characters and a fun setting, with a plot that’s a little all over the place. It’s definitely an enjoyable read, with genuinely amusing moments, as long as you go in aware that there are some heavier topics.
Content warnings: Matthias was in foster care as a child as his parents died in a car accident when he was young (only referenced, not on-page). Pet does not know her father and was emotionally abused by her stepfather and neglected by her mother (also only referenced, not on-page). There is an on-page mugging with a knife attack and a description of a past mugging gone wrong with a knife attack, causing the death of a friend of Matthias, and while it is not named as such Matthias displays some of the characteristics of somebody with PTSD as a result of the incident. Prior to the events of the book, Pet’s boss Johnny was attacked by a stalker who ended up hurting Pet, so there are mentions of that incident and her subsequent hospital stay.