Published by St. Martin's Publishing Group on May 14, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Gay, LGBT, Romance
Red, White & Royal Blue was my biggest reading surprise of the year. I’ve never had any interest in the romance genre, but after seeing Casey McQuiston’s gay rom-com recommended all over Bookstagram and Booktube I decided to give it a try. Less than halfway through the book I was fully invested. My husband had to endure me rambling on about Alex and Henry’s dramatic romance and how amazing the book was. I have discovered a new favorite book.
Alex Claremont-Diaz, first son of the United States, and the UK’s Prince Henry are rivals. After the boys have a messy altercation involving a cake their two families agree to force Alex and Henry to fake a friendship to improve U.S/U.K. relations. However, the enemies become eventual lovers when Alex and Henry find themselves in a secret romance. They both have reasons to keep the relationship a secret. Alex fears the relationship will hurt his mom’s odds at being reelected in the upcoming presidential election. And Henry is not allowed to be out of the closet because his elders believe it would tarnish the royal family’s reputation. But as their feelings grow stronger keeping the relationship a secret becomes more challenging.
My favorite part of the novel was the perfectly written banter between Alex and Henry. Their flirty exchange was written perfectly. The emails they share between each other, including quotes from historically queer characters, are especially cute. Many of Alex and Henry’s friends are fantastic allies. Red, White & Royal Blue is a feel-good, wholesome queer love story. When so much of queer fiction focuses on trauma, stories like this are refreshing.
I appreciated how the story focused on Alex’s professional life, instead of solely his love life. In your 20s every career decision seems critical because your professional life is just beginning. Alex was concerned his relationship with a member of the British royal family would ruin his ambitious goal of becoming an American senator before 30. I related to this strongly. Two years ago, I decided to move out of state with my partner for his doctorate program’s internship. We moved before I was able to secure a new job. I was worried that I was compromising my career for my relationship. Fast forward to today and I am happily married to my best friend and my career is moving in a positive direction. Young professionals have decades of time to develop their careers. We need to normalize making shifts in our career goals. It is freeing when you realize that changes in your professional plans are not failures, especially when they are for the love of your life.
My only (tiny) criticism of the book is I was not sold on the sex scenes. This wasn’t a huge drawback for me. Sex scenes in books are not my favorite. Steamy bedroom scenes are not McQuiston’s strength if literary smut matters to you. I found these scenes to be awkwardly written. The writing was almost muddled. It felt strangely asexual.
Nonetheless, Red, White & Royal Blue was a beautiful book that I can see myself reading again! Alex and Henry’s relationship is brilliantly written. I was glued to the pages as they turned from enemies to lovers. I definitely plan on reading more gay romance books in the future. Please give me some recommendations in the comments!