Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

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?

🎵 Plenty of heart and plenty of hope 

OooooooooCaseyM-C, whose fresh voice comes sweepin' down the plain
And the sparkling banter, sure smells sweet
When the wit slashes down like a blade

(IDK what's gotten into me here, just go with it)

OoooooCaseyM-C, ev'ry word made me wish for a world
Without an Orange One whose
Makin' a fool of himself while
We all know we can do better for this land
This land we belong to is grand!

And whether we say White House Trio or Super Six!
Or Alex and Henry-AY!
We're only sayin'
You're doin' fine, OoooooCaseyM-C!
OooooooCaseyM-C, OK!

(going a lil off script with this last bit)

BLUE Texas in 2020! WOO! 🎵

Anyhoo, I think it's safe to say if a book makes you break into show tunes, it's prolly pretty great. This story was exactly what I needed-light, fluffy and warmed me up from the inside out with its hopefulness and optimism. Part enemies to lovers story and part coming of age story, it's smart and engaging and delivers some much needed escapism with the added bonus of being deliciously swoony. Alex and Henry fall hard but not fast which I appreciated.

He kisses Henry until it feels like he can't breathe, until it feels like he's going to forget both of their names and titles, until they're only two people tangled up in a dark room making a brilliant, epic, unstoppable mistake.

The banter is delightful and Henry's razor sharp wit made me snortle time and time again. The Star Wars debates (#TeamAlex here; it's sad how wrong Henry is in his wrongness), the Harry Potter references and the correspondence whether it be text or email all brought a smile to my face and the excerpts that ended their emails? Three words: squishy marshmallow goo. Told exclusively from Alex's POV and, admittedly, there were times I wished for Henry's but the dialogue and correspondence went a long way, and in the end this is really Alex's journey of self discovery so it's fitting that he tell it.

They bring out the best in each other even when they're sniping at the other and when all that pent up frustration and desire morphs into something more it was electric.

Should I tell you that when we're apart, your body comes back to me in dreams? That when I sleep, I see you, the dip of your waist, the freckle above your hip, and when I wake up in the morning, it feels like I've just been with you, the phantom touch of your hand on the back of my neck fresh and not imagined? That I can feel your skin against mine, and it makes every bone in my body ache? That, for a few moments, I can hold my breath and be back there with you, in a dream, in a thousand rooms, nowhere at all?

I never expected to fall in love with all these characters like I did, not just Alex and Henry but June, Pez, Oscar, Ellen, Cash, Zahra, Shaan and most notably Nora. Nora is my hero. All of them are well crafted. All of them love each other and mostly importantly they have fun together. They all read age appropriate. If there were to be more stories in this universe, I would not be mad about that. At all.

The effort that McQuiston put into developing not only these characters but the romance was striking and the care she took in folding in geopolitical and domestic issues with aplomb combined with her seamless integration of diversity, got my attention. Sure, you have to suspend a little disbelief but the heart of what's being addressed is a troubling reality that she didn't shy away from addressing; she just put a more hopeful spin on it.

A spin, that I might add, I would get decked out in sparkly shoes, a tutu, ready for some epic heel clicking and am fully prepared to offer to do something unpleasant. Not illegal or amoral, mind, but unpleasant like voluntarily ingesting jicama 🤢🤢🤢 to make this alt-reality a reality. Just point me in the right direction. I'm ready for duty!

Last but certainly not least, Texas! YYYYYYAAAASSSSSSSS!!!!! BBQ ribs and elotes and lazy summer days and a sky so blue it'll take your breath away FTW! It always ramps up the appeal of a book when I can connect on such a visceral level like I did here. Coupled with the fact that I share the deep and abiding hope that Texas will be a battleground state in 2020 deepened my connection to it.

My quibbles are minor, namely that I think it could've been tighter. Some parts of the narrative I thought were long-winded. Time could've been demarcated better, though that could get cleaned up before it's officially released. If so, someone let me know and I'll bump my rating up to 4.75 stars.

So, if you're interested in a feel good and swoony escapism from the superbadawful 24/7 news, then give Red, White & Royal Blue a whirl.

An ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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