Red, White & Royal Blue
by Casey McQuiston
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for having saved me. I was drowning and you threw yourself into the water without hesitation, without a backward look.”
To be published May 14, 2019 by St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: new adult contemporary
Date finished: March 14, 2019
Content warnings: public outing, references to drug addiction, excessive drinking
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?
My thoughts (spoiler free)
How do I love this book? Let me count the ways.
Starting out this book, having read the premise, I expected a cute enemies-to-lovers rom-com that would give me some heart flutters and make me smile when I thought back on it. I didn’t expect to find an early contender for a favorite book of the year.
Here is a non-comprehensive list of reasons why you should read this book:
❤️ It is a cute enemies-to-lovers rom-com that gave me heart flutters, though those heart flutters were about a thousand times bigger than I expected and included some genuine heart-clutching and tears of happiness.
💙 It felt like the kind of fanfiction that you stay up until 3am reading and make sure to save on all your devices so you can go back to your favorite parts at any time. For real, every time I picked up this book, I couldn’t force myself to put it down for a long, long time.
❤️ The characters! I could wax poetic about all of these characters for days. All are fully fleshed out and complex, even the side characters.
💙 Alex Claremont-Diaz: the First Son of the United States, cocky, ambitious, seemingly overflowing with confidence and charisma. He’s also SO DUMB. Like, he’s smart, but he’s an idiot. I absolutely love this type of character.
- (Sidenote: This was also my first time reading a non-YA book where the main character is younger than me. Alex turns 22 in 2020 and I turn 22 this year. Oof.)
❤️ Prince Henry of Wales: the youngest grandson of the Queen of England. I can’t even start thinking about this boy without crying. He has such a beautiful heart and I was constantly surprised by him and his layers of complexity.
💙 June and Nora, parts two and three of the White House Trio: Alex’s sister and the granddaughter of the VP. Their relationships with Alex were so heartwarming, and their banter made me giggle out loud on multiple occasions.
❤️ Literally every other character in this book. They’re hilarious and fun and make this world feel fully fleshed out. I legit feel like they’re all friends of mine now.
💙 This book looks into the political situations in the US and the UK (though mostly the US) and shows the complex issues and contradictions inherent in these systems, all of which the book handles so well.
❤️ It is a radically hopeful version of reality in which a woman was elected the president in 2016, yet also extremely realistic in the ways that it depicts the divisions and deeply rooted prejudices that exist in this country.
- (Sidenote 2: It appears that this universe has a female president but no Hamilton (the musical). Is this the tradeoff we have to make?? A woman as president but no Lin Manuel Miranda???) (Sorry Lin, but I’d take it.)
💙 It questions what kind of legacy we want to leave in this world and how we want history to remember us, discussing about the foundations of homophobia and racism that Western nations are built upon.
❤️ The writing moves from cuttingly witty and laugh out loud funny to achingly beautiful and romantic and I don’t understand how one thing can be both of these so seamlessly.
💙 It depicts grief and loneliness, anxiety and fame, the masks we put on for the public and the people we love, and the dreams that are forbidden to people because of their positions.
❤️ Some other things in this book: romantic emails rivaling the letters between Alexander Hamilton and John Laurens; evil turkeys; group chat shenanigans; art history; queer history; drunk karaoke; and so, so much more.
Here’s something you should know: this book gets very political. For me, that was amazing, because I’m a politics nerd. But I know that isn’t going to be for everyone. It gets into the weeds of political maneuvering, showing some of the ugly side of Washington. It also gave me major horror flashbacks to the 2016 election and flashforwards to the 2020 election, which was stressful, but it all felt so realistic.
“I don’t think this election is gonna hinge on an email server.”
Alex arches a brow. “You sure about that?”
(me: laughing and then crying)
Another thing that you should know going in is that this book is not YA. It’s definitely aimed for an 18+ audience, so be aware!
But truly, I can’t say enough about how much I loved Red, White & Royal Blue. Going in, I couldn’t have imagined that I would at times be blinking back tears, not because something sad happened, but because it moved me so deeply. I had no idea that I would come away so attached to these characters.
As soon as I finished this book and wiped up my tears, I immediately wanted to start it all over again. Even now, about a month since I finished, I still can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve already preordered my physical copy, and it will definitely be a book I return to multiple times. (Depending on how the 2020 election goes, I might just choose to escape back into this universe. 😬)
Alex and Henry became one of my favorite fictional couples almost instantaneously. Their relationship is anything but simple, yet they fight to make it work despite all the obstacles in their way (even when those obstacles are themselves). They’re amazing and inspiring and my heart hurts!!!
Go read this book. Mark your calendar for May 14th and buy it ASAP. This is a book I’m going to be shouting from the rooftops.
*ARC PROVIDED BY NETGALLEY IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW. QUOTES ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.*
“Thinking about history makes me wonder how I’ll fit into it one day, I guess. And you too. I kinda wish people still wrote like that.
History, huh? Bet we could make some.”
(Sidenote 3: I want one of those “History, huh?” t-shirts, please and thanks.)