I am a laughing crying mess because this entire book is too adorable beyond words. The audiobook narrator played the voices perfectly, and I cannot. Deal. With. This. Book.
(Side note: I came across a ton of Alex and Henry fanart from Venessa Kelley and I am absolutely in love with them, so I totally am throwing them into this review!)
RED, WHITE, & ROYAL BLUE
by Casey McQuiston
St. Martin’s Griffin, May 2019
Contemporary romance, LGBT
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies
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?
I could say I did not expect to like this book as much as I did, but honestly, I had no expectations other than knowing this was a LGBT contemporary romance. And an adult fiction at that! (Which meant I couldn’t recommend it to one of my queer students, not until she’s gotten much older, hah!)
Essentially, the story pretty much hinges on the classic romance trope of Enemies to Lovers. Alex and Henry get off on a rocky start, which catapults into a disastrous encounter during a British royal wedding. This in turn leads to a bit of a PR issue that the US and UK need to fix immediately, wherein Alex and Henry have got to make nice–which in turn leads to a fake bromance that actually means something. It’s definitely a trope I can get behind.
Combine that with a diverse cast and characters that are absolutely multi-faceted, and honestly, can I gush more about this any more than I already do?
Yes. Yes, I can.
But let me do this in lists, since Alex–and quite possibly Ellen–would totally appreciate the bullet point pros of this absolutely scrumptious novel.
Reasons to Love Red, White, & Royal Blue
1. The White House Trio – Alex, June, and Nora are definitely taking the youth voters by storm, because they’re just unbelievably hip even in their own respective professions. Alex is finishing up grad school to go straight into political campaigning (and it helps that he’s all charm and finesse), June is a talented writer and a journalist (and is also a feminist), and Nora is the brainy–though not unattractive–MIT grad student with crazy tech skills. Their personalities are definitely what make them the Trio, and I loved reading their conversations with each other.
2. The Letter-Writing – Because Henry and Alex spend quite a bit of time apart (since one is in England and the other in Washington, D.C.), a lot of their correspondence is through email and text. The texting was funny enough, but it’s the art of letter-writing that I absolutely adored. People need to do these more often, it’s the cutest thing.
Thinking about history makes me wonder how I’ll fit into it one day, I guess. And you too. I kinda wish people still wrote like that. History, huh? Bet we could make some.
3. Ellen Claremont Herself – Listen. I love that this woman is a sass-talking Texan who happens to also be the first woman US president (speculatively speaking). She’s got a country to run and a re-election campaign to win. But she still somehow finds a way to make her family dynamic work, and I love it.
“I am your mother. I was your mother before I was ever the president, and I’ll be your mother long after, to the day they put me in the ground and beyond this earth. You are my child. So, if you’re serious about this, I’ll back your play.”
Ellen Claremont definitely sent me crying with all the support she gives Alex and her children. And that PowerPoint presentation. Lawd, I absolutely died after that.
4. The Amount of Care and Love this Book Showcases – There’s just a lot of care and love overall. We’re so used to experiencing and expecting such negative backlash to political, religious, societal ideologies, and this book turns that negativity into a hopeful positive message of tolerance and love. Don’t get me wrong, McQuiston doesn’t shy away from actual anti-queer backlash, but in her speculative global community, the support far outweighs the naysayers. And that is a thing of beauty.
5. The Turkey – I’m only adding this because the ENTIRE turkey scene just killed me, brought me back to life, only to kill me again. With laughing tears. ‘Nuff said.
6. The Speculative Politics of it All – As I’ve mentioned before, McQuiston puts her setting on a speculative United States and United Kingdom. A lot of her situations–a first woman president, an openly gay politician of color, a gay prince whose actor father marries into the royal family, a bisexual FSOTUS of color–are situational and add to the plot. While there isn’t a major amount of political pandering to one side or the other (you don’t really see the Claremont platforms in full), it’s clear that there is a side to take in a book that revolves around a political family. This seems to be polarizing to fiction readers, but honestly, I welcomed it. (I’ve also been watching Madam Secretary during this quarantine, so that pretty much tells you where my head is at, too…)
7. Alex and Henry in General – Apart and working through long distance, they’re fantastic. When they are together? It’s an entirely greater level of awesome. The two of them work as a couple. They literally had me at their Star Wars conversation, and that was pretty much at the beginning of the book.
All in all, I absolutely loved this book. The amount of times I cried myself into a crazy mess was absolutely proportional to the amount of times I laughed, and often this went hand in hand. There was just so much about this book that made me smile, and it helped that Ramon de Ocampo brilliantly narrated the audiobook, giving life to the characters, especially to Alex and Henry.
5 out of 5 cookies!