Book reviews

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I’ve been meaning to read Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue for the longest time, and I’m just happy I finally got through it. It’s a surprising combination of humor, thrill, romance, and the very serious side that’s supposed to go with royalty and levels of dignitaries. I love it!

I enjoyed every bit of it. The international relations aspect of the plot is something I don’t often read about in romantic comedy novels, and it just tickles my inner IR/IS side. I don’t know much about the inner workings of the British royalty or the First Family, but the author was able to provide clear (though probably not so real) details to get my mind and my imagination going. All throughout I can picture the chapters slowly coming to life, and witness Alex & Henry’s relationship transition from mutual dislike and annoyance to one that is filled with genuine love and adoration. It’s beautiful.

Prior to writing this review, I was browsing for a copy of the book cover which I have attached here, and saw a lot of online artworks of Alex and Henry. Seeing those drawings in such beautiful colors made these characters more alive in my mind, their story more meaningful and unforgettable. Reading words describing these characters is one thing, and seeing them in full color is another. It makes me wish the author would write more about them so I can get more of them beyond what I have already consumed. Do you get what I mean? Those 400+ pages are not enough.

Alex Claremont-Diaz is the son of the President of the United States. Handsome, intelligent, incredibly charming and persuasive, Alex dreams of becoming the youngest congressman in US history–a feat all within his reach with a family that thrives in the political sphere. His mom, Ellen, is now running for her second term in the White House, while his dad, Oscar, serves in the Senate. Because of his family’s political background, Alex, his sister, June, and their best friend, Nora–the White House trio–are always under the spotlight, their faces and lives in constant scrutiny of the American public. More so now, as his mother hopes to be re-elected. Alex needs to be in his behavior, to not cause any damage to his mom’s campaign as well as his dreams for a political career. But it’s not so easy, especially given his years-long antagonistic history with His Royal Highness, Prince Henry.

Prince Henry of Wales is everything a royal should be: good genes, good manners, well-educated, well-versed… dreamy. But things are not at all what they seem. As we learn, His Royal Highness feels trapped in his monotonous royal life, always acting in his best behavior, never attracting attention to himself, always following orders. As royalty, he must abide by long-standing traditions and keep the royal family’s brand of British excellence in stellar regard. It can be frustrating, suffocating, exhausting. So when Henry first met Alex years ago during the Rio Olympics, he witnesses Alex’s stunning ebullience, vibrancy, and carefree confidence–forming what was a point of instant attraction. In addition, nobody ever dared talk back to a royal of Henry’s level, that is until Alex. And so begins their confusing, but absolutely thrilling exchanges.

What started as a fake friendship to ascertain damage control between US-UK relations after a very public dispute involving a $75,000 multi-layered wedding cake evolved to late night calls, awkward messages involving turkeys in cages, and eventually to secret, romantic rendezvous across continents. There’s also a lot of US politics involved, but I assure you the author managed to keep the storyline engaging from start to finish. You’ll fall in love with these characters, laugh with them, cry with them. Just give them the chance.

I give this book 4.5 stars. I seriously want to give it a five, but I find the ending a bit clipped. As I mentioned earlier, I need more. With Alex and Henry, I always need more. I also enjoyed learning about the supporting characters in this story. I think it’s worth mentioning that all the other characters served a particular purpose, and played important roles in making Alex & Henry’s relationship possible. It would be great to have something like this happen in real life–of people of color, of a different gender identity, of whatever socio-economic status to feel free in themselves, to fall in love with whomever they choose and be allowed to fully express that love, to be spared judgement just because of their uniqueness. I mean, we’re in the modern world. Let’s not let backwardness and closemindedness win over more important notions like love and mutual respect.

As my first novel by author Casey McQuiston, I really enjoyed this one. Her style of writing, her humor, and how she phrases romantic lines and dialogues, I am now a fan. In some of the chapters, Henry and Alex would write emails to each other, stating all kinds of things from the mundane to the big revelations, and I just feel like these are real exchanges, written so openly and so passionately it slams the point across.

I’m attaching below one of my favorites, so you can see for yourself what I mean. This is Henry’s email to Alex and he was referring to the day of their first meeting.

“I thought, this is the most incredible thing I have ever seen, and I had better keep it a safe distance away from me. I thought, if someone like that ever loved me, it would set me on fire.

And then, I was a careless fool, and I fell in love with you anyway When you rang me at truly shocking hours of the night, I loved you. When you kissed me in disgusting public toilets and pouted in hotel bars and made me happy in ways in which it had never occurred to me that a mangled-up, locked-up person like me could be happy, I loved you.

And then, inexplicably, you had the absolute audacity to love me back. Can you believe it?

Sometimes, even now, I still can’t.”

Casey McQuiston, Red, White & Royal Blue (p. 300, in one H’s email to A)

If it’s not obvious enough, I recommend this read. Put it on your TBR list now, if you haven’t yet. You won’t regret it.

  • Title: Red, White & Royal Blue
  • Author: Casey McQuiston
  • Year published: 2020
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
  • Total number of pages: 418
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-250-31677-6

***

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