In an alternate reality, the United States votes differently in the 2016 election and chooses its first female president, Ellen Clarendon. She’s divorced, a Texas democrat, and has a daughter, June, and a son, Alex. The White House trio is beloved by the country and heads to England to attend a royal wedding. While there, Alex simultaneously reacquaints himself with his mortal enemy, Henry, aka the handsome Prince of England, and gets into a well-photographed brawl with him, creating a PR nightmare. The two are forced to repair their relationship for the sake of international relations and suddenly… hate starts to turn into something more like love.
Can you imagine what life would be like if we elected a woman instead of a man in 2016? *moment of silence* This book is sugary sweet and absolutely does not remotely touch on what that might have looked like, but, realistic executive branch in today’s economy ASIDE, it sure is a lovely fantasy. I really enjoyed the family dynamics at play in this fun novel. On one hand, we are presented with the accepting, kick-ass female President and are invited to watch the already-strong kinship between June, Alex, and the VP’s daughter, Nora, strengthen throughout the novel as the three go through hardship after hardship. The stark difference between this American family and Henry’s British family throughout adds tension to the novel and, despite the high level of fantasy taking place, brings the novel back down to a relatable level. Many people who come out to their families aren’t met with the acceptance they deserve and a lot of that comes down to culture, time, and place, which is clearly represented in Henry’s family dynamic.
As far as settings go, the White House and Kensington Palace are pretty ace. Seeing into the lives of the most important family in our country was really fun, fiction or not, and I thoroughly enjoyed the fantasy of sprinting through the White House on the way to a top-secret meeting in the Oval Office, or sneaking into the V&A museum after dark. The celebrity effect of this book made for perfect escapism and also drew me in with the high-stakes tone. If you really like buzzing through a whole book as quickly as possible, I think you’ll feel right at home with Red, White, & Royal Blue.
The romantic relationship between Alex and Henry was similarly lovable. The author really succeeded in showing their slow burn relationship from beginning to end. I didn’t know I liked the hate-to-love trope, but I was rooting for them the entire time. Reading along as someone falls in love can never really get old to me. The author also has a talent for writing emails, text messages, and other modern forms of communication, which was a huge relief since so much of the main relationships are international and, thus, take place over the phone.
Unfortunately, not everything in this book can be sunshine and daisies. Something I found slightly concerning at worst and off-putting at best is the sheer ridiculousness of the political environment we are brought into. If you are not a bleeding-heart Liberal, you will find many of the implications in this book concerning and probably offensive. I personally do align with many of the politics in this book, and I still found it questionable. We don’t live in a time where the hacking of a private presidential email server would have almost no impact on an incumbent’s chances for reelection and there’s no chance the positivity of a bisexual son would outshine that security breach. The book is a bit too black and white on the politics, and it’s hard to tie a big happy bow around such complex issues, even in fiction. In my opinion, McQuiston could have shaved a good hundred pages off this book (it’s 432 pages long…) by not getting so into the weeds with the politics and instead focusing on the story.
Overall? Despite some of its questionable choices regarding the political environment, I found Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston to be extremely charming and perfect for when you just want to read about love. You’re going to root for Henry and Alex, delight in June and Nora’s friendship (spin-off please), and immerse yourself into this rose-tinted world wherever and whenever you can until the very end.
PRODUCT DETAILS: St. Martin’s Griffin; May 14,2019; 978-1250316776 ; 432 pp; Fiction -> LGBTQ romance