Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston



Rating: 5 stars
Release Date: May 14, 2019
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Genre: new adult contemporary romance
Format/Source: eARC, Edelweiss & audio, purchased
Status: standalone (for now)
 

 
Summary:
A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends...

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher. This does not affect the content of my review.
Review:
Honestly, I don't think words can describe just how much I love this book. The good news is considering everyone else seems to love it too means I don't need to be The Most Eloquent in this review!

Red, White & Royal Blue is an absolute dream of a rom-com. It has all the best elements and tropes for romantic goodness: a bold, charismatic and sassy main character, a charming, sensitive prince as the love interest, hate-to-love PLUS best friends to more, love letters, jet setting, sexy and romantic assignations in fun locations, karaoke, a brilliant and colorful group of friends, and lots and lots of kissing! SA-WOON. I adore books that are just plain FUN to read, and that is absolutely what I got with RW&RB.

Alex, our mc, is a bit of a demon, which you may not realize at first, but I say it with love. Part of Alex's journey is learning to be a little more flexible and also to get his shit together. It's so funny; Alex is one of those people with a 10 year plan so he clearly thinks about the future, but he's not so with it on the day-to-day, in which he's kind of a mess. And that makes Prince Henry, our sensitive love interest perfect for him. Henry is more reserved so Alex brings him out of his shell (and scenes watching Henry break out are some of my faves! See aforementioned karaoke scene) and also equalize Henry's occasional depressive moods, brought on by continued grief over his father's death. Meanwhile Henry is able to temper Alex's... well, temper. Alex is so intense and energetic that Henry's solid demeaner really grounds him. The two of them have good balance.

I LOVED watching these two dummies discover how well-suited they are because 1. the two of them as enemies is absolutely laughable. There's a weekend where they have to play nice for the press (after the royal wedding fiasco mentioned in the book's description), and I thought I was going to split my side laughing at the two of them being ridiculously mean to one another (but OH NOES they are thrown into a closet together FOR SAFETY). And 2. Being so high-profile and constantly having their business aired publicly is super frustrating. So it was nice that the drama in the book was more external to Alex & Henry, rather than a lot of angst about their relationship itself.

I also like that Alex's discovery about being bi is low-angst. His coming out isn't treated as a big to-do by anyone in his family or immediate circle, including his mother's staff and the secret service agents. Nor is it even a huge revelation to Alex. It's more of a subtle moment of relief. Like remembering something you forgot. He's just like, "Oh, THAT'S why...." Once again, all the angst is from public reaction as is the nature of being part of a high-profile family, especially one in the midst of a reelection campaign. I understand that for so many people, coming out is a HUGE, even scary prospect, but I think it's good to show how it's not always that way. Especially considering how especially the youngest Millennials and Gen Z in real life are so open to a more fluid idea of sexuality, this was a good choice.

Henry, on the other hand, I wanted to gather up into a fierce yet gentle hug because OOF, he has to fight his family's (well, a couple of family members, not the entire family) very rigid views of what's expected of him and his future. And if you are someone who is not a fan of the way in which royalty, especially the British monarchy, has been romanticized, you'll be happy because the text (including Henry himself) does call out imperialism and the prejudices of the royal institution (this happens with the US as well).

Overall the cast is incredibly inclusive, with many characters who are members of the lgbtq+ community (including an openly gay senator and a trans lesbian secret service agent) and multiple characters of color. As Alex is a biracial Mexican-American, readers mostly see his and his family's heritage celebrated throughout the pages, but there are others as well. It felt really natural to me, not as if Casey were checking off a list as she wrote, but rather a Democratic female president WOULD push for an inclusive staff and raise her family to be welcoming to people of all backgrounds and marginalizations.

This book is simply perfect from start to finish. I know there's a LOT of buzz surrounding it, and I know that can be really intimidating if you worry about buzz setting your expectations too high. I get it, and I worry about that all the time. This time I promise the hype is 100% accurate. Red, White & Royal Blue is funny, sexy, sweet, and full of laughs. I can't wait to watch the movie (the team is the same one behind Love, Simon!!!), and if there aren't some companions for June and Nora, I WILL RIOT.


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About the Author:
Casey McQuiston grew up in the swamps of Southern Louisiana, where she cultivated an abiding love for honey butter biscuits and stories with big, beating hearts. She studied journalism and worked in magazine publishing for years before returning to her first love: joyous, offbeat romantic comedies and escapist fiction. She now lives in the mountains of Fort Collins, Colorado, with a collection of caftans and her poodle mix, Pepper.

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