Okay guys, here’s the deal: I am so tired of politics and the Trump administration at this point. I just want it to end already. Or, better yet, I wish we could turn back time and have a different president right now. Alas, we can’t change the past, only the future (PLEASE VOTE). But thanks to Casey McQuiston, we can whisk ourselves away to an alternate (better) universe, one in which the United States elected their first female president. Casey’s 2019 debut Red, White, & Royal Blue transports us to that enviable world, where the president’s son gets involved in a love affair with an English prince. International relations gets a whole new name in this sweet romance!
Alex Claremont-Diaz is the First Son of the United States. His mother – a Democrat from Texas – is the first female president, elected in 2016. His dad is originally from Mexico and now works as a Californian Senator. At the start of the book, Alex hates Prince Henry, a seemingly arrogant and boring man who happens to look like a fairytale prince. After a disastrous altercation between Alex and Henry one day, political damage control is necessary: They have to spend a weekend together pretending to be friends.
Soon enough, the two realize that they actually get along pretty well, and their friendly image turns into the real deal. But things get more complicated when romance comes into it. Even though we’re two decades into the 21st century, it’s still scandalous for royals and politicians to be gay or bisexual. And with President Claremont running for re-election, the stakes are high.
Can Alex and Henry pursue a relationship without the public catching on? Can they ever have a relationship that the public actually accepts? As the book’s own blurb says so well, “true love isn’t always diplomatic.”
Ever since it came out last year, I’ve heard wonderful things about Red, White, & Royal Blue. With the (real) 2020 election just around the corner, now felt like the best time to read it. I hope it can serve as a good luck charm to the election results…
Anyway, back to this alternate reality: I loved so much about Red, White, & Royal Blue.
First up, this is a rom-com in the truest sense. Honestly, this book is hilarious almost the entire way through. The characters have endlessly comedic banter and observations that left me laughing out loud and sharing (spoiler-free) passages with anyone within earshot.
The romance here is also super well done. One of my pet peeves in romance is how everything usually happens so fast. I’m not a love-at-first-sight kind of person. Relationships take time to develop, and you need that time to form a solid foundation for love. Luckily, Red, White, & Royal Blue serves us the kind of love that I actually believe in. Alex and Henry are friends first (well, after the enemies phase, at least), and they spend months getting to know each other and form a real bond.
Once their romantic relationship takes off, it’s still given plenty of time to grow. One thing I loved is when they really get to know each other intimately – learning about each other’s painful pasts and fears and dreams and ambitions. This is what real relationships are about: getting to truly know each other – the good and the bad – and developing real care for each other. This book spans over a year, really allowing Alex and Henry the time they need to form a believable, solid relationship.
Beyond romance, Red, White, & Royal Blue also highlights other wholesome relationships. Alex and Henry each have great friendships, including with their respective sisters. I’m all about good sibling relations. They also get valuable support from their parents. Even though Ellen Claremont is the president, and any scandal can risk her political career and the future of the country, I appreciate that she puts her son first. She truly cares about Alex and his happiness. Henry’s mom plays a vital role late in the book, too, showing the love and protection of good mothers. Both characters have (or had) great dads, too. Sadly, Henry’s dad passed away before the book, a trauma I can relate to all too well.
Speaking of dads, I appreciate that Alex’s father is Mexican. Both Alex and his sister June are biracial and bilingual, and it’s great to see that representation not just in romance, but also in (fictional) US politics. Diversity is beautiful and a strength of this country.
We also, of course, get LGBTQ+ representation. Our leads are gay and bisexual, but we also have other characters who are part of the community. One of Alex’s close friends is also bisexual; one of the women who works with the White House staff is trans and married to a pansexual woman. While they still live in a world that’s a bit scandalized by anything not straight, I love the amount of support our lead men get in the end.
Alex and Henry certainly face legitimate issues, and they are largely based on homophobia that’s still too present in our world. Their struggles between each other and the issues that came from the outside world are believable. I appreciate that that this book doesn’t hinge on some lame non-issue, especially one involving basic miscommunication or either of the characters being toxic in some way. I’m over that. Luckily, the issues here are legitimate and handled swiftly and with care. Indeed, Alex and Henry are both perceptive, thoughtful men, and that intelligence extends to their romantic relationship.
A final note: Red, White, & Royal Blue is a smart book that immerses readers in the political landscapes of the US and, to a lesser degree, the UK. I love that this wasn’t just used as a setting. Rather, these characters are actively involved with and informed about a lot of political proceedings, and readers can get a lot of this. To be sure, it is set in an alternate universe, one with a much better president, but it’s also realistically done. The book ends on election night, on November 3, 2020. I can only hope that our real election night next month offers such a good outcome.
Red, White, & Royal Blue truly lived up to the hype. I enjoyed every bit of this book, from the laugh-out-loud banter to the emotional passages that brought tears to my eyes. It’s a strong and believable romance with smart, likable characters you always cheer on. It’s also an intelligently done bit of escapism that still feels realistic.
Read this book, and do it soon, because a movie is in the works! You know I’ll be watching that as soon as it’s out. I’m also excited to read Casey McQuiston’s next standalone rom-com, One Last Stop, out June 1, 2021; you can pre-order now here.
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