Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
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?
This book. Y’all, this book. There was so much hype around it that I feared it wouldn’t live up, but I was absolutely hooked from the first chapter and it never went away. I would have read it in one sitting if I didn’t desperately try to savour it. Red, White, and Royal Blue plays off all my favourite romance tropes (eg. fake dating, enemies to friends to lovers) and some I didn’t know I liked, and all of it works perfectly. I loved every second of reading this book.
So I have two new children, and one of them is the First Son of the United States, and the other is the Prince of Wales. I loved both of them so much. Alex is the chaotic bisexual disaster representation that we all needed. I believe he called himself, and I paraphrase, “a one-man wrecking ball,” and I love that description. Alex gives his all for everything, and I admire that about him so much – especially when it comes to loving Henry. And Henry is everything; he has so many layers – Henry is quieter and less prone to spectacle than Alex, but just as fierce and loving in his emotions. The dynamic between both of them was amazing from beginning to end – as “enemies” (which was, actually, hilarious on Alex’s end, his narration is amazing), to really, truly, unashamedly in love. Like. God. Their relationship was just. I don’t even know how to compute it, because it was so incredibly sweet I feel as if my teeth have rotted out of my mouth.
And I love it when I fall as much in love with the side characters as I do with the major ones. The other two in the White House Trio, June and Nora, were both wonderful and so supportive yet stand out in their own right. I also lowkey ship them. Pez and Bea too were really great and felt so real too. Amy, Shaan, Zahra … all of them were such great side characters and none of them felt sidelined in Alex’s life even though they were more minor characters. This book is just so damn heartwarming all over the place, from family to friendships to romantic relationships and everything else.
The writing clicked so much with me. Normally I don’t like third person, present tense in published fiction, but this book has the writing and narration style of really good fanfiction, which is often written in third/present. When it’s done right, as it was here, I find it so much closer to be emotionally invested – everything seems more present and vivid, yet lacks the clunkiness that can sometimes come with a first person perspective. It’s a very stream-of-consciousness style of writing, complete with hesitations and sentence fragments that make Alex’s voice seem so much more real. Also, this book is genuinely hilarious. There’s banter, and there’s in-narrative snark, and then there’s just crazy situations like tipping over a $75,000 wedding cake, and Alex’s bisexual freak-out, that you just can’t not laugh at.
As a non-American, some of the political stuff went over my head, but it is so so amazing to see a far more optimistic version of the United States that we’re seeing now. This book is inherently political, pushing back against the actual trainwreck/anger generation machine that is today’s politics. Having a bisexual Mexican boy in the White House, having a female president, and such a diverse team of staff, and none of it a big deal in the story, well, is a big deal in the real world. This book is a spark of joy in a time where international politics does not spark joy, and it honestly gave me hope that maybe someday our world can be like this. I can’t remember the last time a book has made me so happy before – usually the books I love destroy me in a completely different way.
One of the things I really loved about Red, White, and Royal Blue is its discussion of queer history throughout the book. Because, damn right, queers have always existed in history and will continue to exist and make history. I loved how Alex and Henry were absolute history geeks, because hello, me too, and kept quoting letters of queer historical figures to their lovers, like Eleanor Roosevelt, or Alexander Hamilton, or James II. Like – goodness, who are these nerds?
I really, really, really loved reading Red, White, and Royal Blue. I already want to give it another go, even though as I’m writing this it’s been maybe six hours after I’ve finished it. I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s such a sweet, funny, heartwarming, and hopeful read, and I adored every page of it.