Published by St. Martin's Griffin on May 14, 2019
Genres: New Adult, Young Adult, Gay, M/M Romance, Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Love & Romance, LGBT
Source: I Bought It
Reading Challenges: New Release 2019
A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince 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?
If I’m being absolutely, completely, brutally honest, I actually struggled to get into this book at the beginning (which really sucked since I was so looking forward to it). The reason for this is because I really struggle with third person present tense (yet oddly enough, don’t have trouble with first person present tense – guess I’m just weird that way!)
However, I persevered and I’m so glad I did because I ended up thoroughly enjoying Red, White & Royal Blue (as my above rating clearly indicates!) It is definitely a contender for one of my top reads of 2019 and the fact that Casey McQuiston is a debut writer just makes it just that much sweeter. This book ticked all of my boxes and I’m so glad I stuck with it because I would have been missing out on a poignant, laugh-out-loud funny, and swoon-worthy romance that would melt even the coldest heart.
This is a love story between the first son Alex Claremont-Diaz (our POV character) and Prince Henry of Wales. As a Brit, it was a bit weird for me reading about a fictional royal family (and probably just as weird for Americans having a fictional president) interacting with real-life celebrities but I got over that very quickly.
Alex and Henry start out as rivals (I adore enemies-to-lovers as a trope!) then become reluctant friends and then something a little more. Honestly, their relationship was amazing – sweet without being saccharine, fiery and with witty repartee for days… honestly it was everything I wanted it to be and so much more.
The plot was woven well around the love story – Alex’s mother is in the middle of campaigning for a second term at her presidency and Henry is struggling with all of the responsibilities being a royal son pertains. Henry is gay and Alex is discovering he is less straight than he thought he was (he finally settles on bisexual and it is great to have a book with bi rep!) and realizing he has probably always nursed a massive (secret) crush on Henry.
Henry does not struggle with the knowledge that he is gay but he is very much aware that it is forbidden for a member of the British royal family to be openly gay and is expected to settle down with a wife and produce potential heirs (Henry himself being the ‘spare’ to his elder brother Philip).
Forbidden love stories are my yen and as you can imagine, there is all sorts of yummy angst (which I am a total sucker for so win/win!) Yet, it is also one of the sweetest love stories I have had the pleasure of reading. Alex and Henry are utterly and completely adorable. They have their struggles but they are of the external variety – their lives seem to be constantly pulling them apart yet the way they make time for each other is just… really lovely.
I don’t want to give too much away (because I am very conscious of spoilers – and this book is better to be read with minimal foreknowledge) but I honestly cannot stress how just so gash-darn amazing the romance is – it has its steaminess (this is more new adult than young adult as the characters of Alex and Henry are 21 and 23 respectively) but although there are several sex scenes, it is mostly fade-to-black so it still suitable for a younger YA audience too.
I love how Alex is figuring out his sexuality at the start of the book and although there is a little tiny bit of gay-panic, it is very minimal and he gets over it very quickly. Henry is quite secure in his sexuality – most of the pressures he faces is not being allowed to be out at all which does put some strain on their relationship but isn’t a deal-breaker for them (or for the reader either – closeted stories are frustrating to me but I do see why Henry cannot be open about who he is, despite not liking it for him, if that makes sense).
Although the romance is at the forefront, the plot of the book is engaging and their are some twists and turns I didn’t see coming. The supporting characters were wonderful. I loved June, Alex’s big sister, and his best friend Nora, not to mention Henry’s chum Pez who was absolutely amazing (and not in it nearly enough – probably my only real criticism!)
Alex’s parents and mentor Rafael were also interesting characters (and very supportive of Alex). Henry had a little bit less support on his side but his sister Bea was wonderful and his mother eventually came around despite being very unavailable at the start.
Overall, this book absolutely killed me with the feels… it was so funny and the banter between Alex and Henry was just… guh! Alex was a pretty amazing guy – brash and so very lovable. Henry was more reserved on the outside but such a sweet, little awkward nerd on the inside with a very dry sense of humour. The perfect counterpoint to Alex. They were so well suited and amazing together. Henry calms Alex, and Alex soothes the bleakness that Henry hides inside.
“That’s the choice. I love him, with all that, because of all that. On purpose. I love him on purpose.”
It was such a feel-good read: fluffy at times, serious at others. It didn’t shy away from the heartbreaking topics: being closeted out of necessity, racism (Alex and his sister June are biracial), feminism, gender politics, regular politics, corruption… it had a bit of everything yet the plot never felt over-crowded and the story just flowed really nicely.
I am really impressed that this is the author’s very first book. It doesn’t read like a first book at all – the writing is funny, engaging and the banter (oh, the banter – it had been hooting in places) is so realistic. Definitely a very strong debut and I cannot wait to see what Casey McQuiston comes up with next!
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