Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Contemporary romance published by St. Martin’s Griffin on May 14, 2019

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston book coverWhat happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic.

I’m reviewing this for the July #TBRChallenge. While it’s a fairly recent release, I feel like I’ve waited forever to read it. If unrequited love, enemies to lovers, and friends to lovers are things you like in a romance, then this book is for you. It has all of these tropes and more between one couple and it’s delightful. Pretty much all of this story worked for me. Alex and Henry are lovely main characters, the secondary characters are so compelling. I feel like I got enough information for them to be fully developed but at the same time there’s potential for other stories in this world involving these great characters. A big component of the romance between Alex and Henry is epistolary—they communicate via text and email, initially getting to know each other more then it evolves into love letters. It’s so romantic y’all.

This is a little alternate reality I guess—the First Family and Royal Family along with other political figures are fictional and the timing is leading up to and including the 2020 US presidential election. There’s a lot of politics in this, some mirroring present day events. Alex’s goal since he was a kid was to be the youngest elected Congressman ever and with both his parents in politics, that’s natural. And he’s very involved in his mom’s 2020 campaign for re-election. I enjoyed the political stuff more than I thought I would. I’ve shied away from a lot of romances with politics (as in main characters in politics) because I don’t want to get more mired in nostalgia for what might have been because it makes me really sad and angry. This story really hit a sweet spot for me of aspirational what-might-have-been (or maybe something like it) in US presidential politics but not too much.

Not gonna lie—I had some serious second hand embarrassment around an incident in the first chapter of this book and had to set it down for a few hours before I could keep going. But once I did, I finished it in a couple sittings. One draw to this story for me is my sporadic interest in the royal family. While this version is fictional, I still liked getting a little immersed in the world. Henry and his sister Bea are awesome.

Alex and Henry both evolve in this story. While their romance is a catalyst, I don’t think it would have been out of character for them to make the changes they did even if they weren’t trying to be together. It was hard but I enjoyed the journey. Alex is full-steam-ahead in most things in his life and usually gets what he wants. He has several setbacks in the story that make him pause and reflect, try to be patient. Henry let life happen to him or around him, built a specific (and bland) public image, and goes along with the dictates of his grandmother the Queen. He has to decide whether he wants to risk it all for a life with Alex (or to even just be his real self).

Content warning for forced outing and reference to attempted sexual assault (not in detail but discussed briefly). The forced outing was brutal for me to read. Knowing this was fictional helped a little but I know real people have been publicly outed without their permission and I can’t imagine how much worse it feels in real life.

I definitely recommend this. To me it’s kind of like some of the best episodes of West Wing and Parks & Recreation. At times too hopeful and idealistic but so adorable and earnest I bought into it. The romance was delightful, most of the characters were people I’d admire if they were real. I would love some spinoffs or kind of behind the scenes for pretty much everyone but especially Zahra and Shaan and June, Nora, and Pez. Great read; I want more like it!

Grade: A-

You can buy a copy here.

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