Politics certainly has gotten interesting the last couple of years, hasn’t it? At least, that’s what you’d almost have to believe, if you saw how many people were talking about it. Like, all the time. And – as it turns out? It’s even romantic. Or at least, it could be. You know, if a woman won POTUS in 2016. And if her son then fell for the Prince of England. Because of course he did, right? If nothing else, Red, White & Royal Blue manages to combine that sweet bliss of first true love with a healthy amount of politics – both in and ouf the White House. And it’s all sorts of amazing.
I was offered an ARC by Netgalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are strictly my own.
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?
There’s this fun part of studying history – which, while I didn’t major in it, I did choose all of my electives from – which is called counterfactual history. Also known as: what might have happened. And in many ways, Red, White & Royal Blue shows us exactly that: what might have happened. And that in and of itself would’ve been interesting, certainly.
But Casey McQuiston does more with it. Much more. She manages to portray the kind of intrigues, plotting – even illegality that goes into running (and, possibly, winning) a campaign. She plays with the way two different countries may see one part of history in vastly different ways. McQuiston gives a podium to the insecurity that even today many people feel in regards to their heritage – the way a heritage that is not “white” (mind the “” because – honestly) is still so often looked down on.
And of course, then there’s the romance. There’s these two boys who dislike each other quite strongly. There’s a slow transition from that, to friendship, to attraction, to that sudden realisation that made everyone in the room (or the lake, but oh well) go “oh”. You are shown two people who determine that – this time – they’ll be honest. About who they are, about what they think, feel, and want to be. There’s history being written, questioned, and made.
And what’s best: Red, White and Royal Blue does all of that with a grace that I haven’t read in a while. The representation – of cultures, sexuality, gender identification – is good. Just from memory, there’s a transgender security guard (I think that’s her job, at least), there’s a gay senator, a gay prince, a non-labeled friend, a bisexual main character, … . I mean, come on – there’s even a cartoon-like-evil-politician-that-unfortunately-is-no-longer-cartoon-like. There’s the kind of mother that makes you think “I wish mine was like that” – even if yours is. There’s the kind of bond between sibling that makes it clear they will always put each other first. We’re given parents that have divorced but try to always do their best by their children…
That probably summarises it best – we’re given Red, White and Royal Blue. Not only is the characterisation consistent and do the characters grown in their identity and their sense of self. Not only is there a reflection of the world – in all its variations – as it really is. At the bottom of all that, there’s an author that writes with care, respect, and a huge amount of feeling. And she pulled me into those feelings each step of the way.
Look, this book made me laugh, cry, swoon, it gave me butterflies. It made me want to finish it now but also take forever to finish it because – so beautiful. This may just be my favourite read this year, and it’s 100% my favourite NA-book I’ve ever read. In so many ways this book felt like an absolute breath of fresh air – and I cannot recommend you enough to go read it as well. (Goodreads)