Book Review: Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

A review copy of this book was provided by St Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

There’s already so much buzz about this book – it’s been optioned for a movie over at Amazon and it’s rocking a 4.5 star average rating at the time of writing this review. I’ll be honest – when I started this book, I was a pretty concerned about whether this would have a fanfiction feel to it. The one sentence summary sounds like something straight out of a fanficiton: the First Son of the United States falls in love with the Prince of Wales. While the concept is a little cliche, this book brings a surprising depth and dignity to the plot and really explores the ideas of identity, large scale politics, and what it means to love someone while the whole world is watching. It took me by surprise and is easily one of my favorite books of this year (and possibly one of my favorite romances of all time).

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

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?

Going into this book, I was only really expecting a surface level love story: nothing too deep, and nothing I haven’t seen before. Luckily, Red, White & Royal Blue blew past my expectations and set a new personal standard to compare all other New Adult romantic comedy books to. The plot was exceptionally well paced and spent time not only developing the budding romance between the political figures, but also building tension and suspense over President Claremont’s pending election bid. The romance between Alex and Henry was the main focus, but there were plenty of well developed subplots that kept me glued to the book. The author also took time to explore the nuances of the friendships between Alex and his friends and ample time was spent on developing Alex from a over confident jackass to a worthy and lovable character. There’s nothing I value more in a book than a well rounded cast of characters who each have their own stories and struggles.

Not only is this a romance, it’s also a coming of age story. Alex spends much of this book figuring out who he is and how he wants to be remembered in the history books. His character growth is exceptional: he learns that the path forward isn’t always the obvious one and that his personal identity doesn’t belong to anyone but himself. It was fascinating having what felt like a realistic coming of age story set on the world stage of politics – having the spotlight on Alex and Henry by the media only heightened my emotional investment in the story. Not only did they have to figure out who they were for themselves, they had to figure out who they wanted to be in the public eye.

All of the characters in this book had really great development arcs and growth. Alex starts a bit of a wild child, and is the son of the current sitting president of the United States of America. He comes from a family of politicians and that’s all he’s ever aspired to be. Henry, on the other hand, is a repressed British monarch who has had his life mapped out for his since he was born. They’re the perfect odd couple and somehow their chemistry just works, even though they started off hating each other. They both had a lot of growing up to do in the beginning, and it was really fun to watch them grow together. Their chemistry was off the charts – it’s been a long time since I’ve read a book where the main characters had chemistry that felt this organic and realistic. They went through their ups and downs and their relationship was never perfect, which I loved them all the more for. The rest of the side characters in this book – Nora, June, Pez, and Bea, were equally well crafted and I would love to read spin offs about all of  them.

As the jacket summary for this novel says, it truly is a “big-hearted romantic comedy”. Red, White & Royal Blue hits the sweet spot of a perfect balance of romance, comedy and drama, without losing its powerful core message. It’s an exceptionally well written book with a fun, deceptively deep plot. 5/5.

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17 Comments

  1. I’ve seen this one around a lot recently, I’m glad you enjoyed it.
    Gemma @ Gemma’s Book Nook

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