ARC Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

41150487First 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?

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Thank you very much to St Martin’s Press for providing a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 7.38.38 pmHistory, huh?

 

I can’t believe it’s only February and I’ve already read the best book of 2019. That might seem like a call too soon to make, but trust me, once you’ve read this book, you’ll 100% agree with me.

Red, White & Royal Blue feels like it was written especially for me. It touched my heart in irrevocable ways and once I finished the book, I immediately turned back to the beginning to read it all over again. The novel features a bisexual protagonist, on a journey of discovering his sexuality, a rivalry turned forced friendship, and a beautiful romance that frequently had me in tears. Red, White & Royal Blue had everything I wanted in a novel and more, and I’m still in awe that a book like this even exists: a book where a part of my identity is so wonderfully captured.

Our protagonist is Alex Claremont-Diaz, the bisexual and half-Mexican son of the FEMALE President of the United States. He can be a little haughty at sometimes, he never stops talking, he knows he’s handsome, and he knows how to work people until he gets his way. But he’s also incredibly dedicated, loyal to a fault, and he loves so very hard and with everything he has. He’s a disaster bi in every sense of the word, and I just adore him so much.

Our love interest is Henry Windsor, the closeted gay Prince of Wales and one of the heirs to the Throne of England. He comes across as cold and stand-offish, but that only hides a heart that has been broken over and over again. Henry, although coming from a world of ultimate privilege, genuinely cares for the wider world and is incredibly empathetic. It’s easy to see why Alex would fall for him.

 

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 7.38.38 pmCome back to me when you’re done being flung through the firmament, you lost Pleiad.

 

Alex and Henry are frenemies and have been in a rivalry for years — a rivalry which may or may not have solely been in Alex’s head — that explodes when the two men engage in a physical fight at the Royal Wedding, caught on camera and which immediately goes viral. In response, Alex and Henry are forced to become BFFs to ensure that international relations between the two countries remain peaceful. But what starts off as a fake friendship soon turns into a real one, through emails and text messages and late-night phone calls, discussing life, love and the demands of upholding your family name and creating a legacy.

Alex and Henry’s tentative friendship quickly turns into a friends-with-benefits situation, so when I say this book has everything I love, I really do mean everything I love: hate to friends to hook-ups to love. Their relationship is perfectly paced and developed, so the reader is right there, falling in love alongside the two boys. It’s heartwarming and tender and so so so soft, you can’t help but squeal in excitement and, if you’re anything like me, blush when Alex says “Baby”.

But what I love most about Red, White & Royal Blue, illuminated through Alex and Henry, are the small moments of historical education peppered throughout the text. This comes in the form of Alex and Henry’s emails to one another, discussing and debating about the lives of prominent queer people from history, most of whom never had the opportunity to come out themselves due to the laws of the era they lived in: Alexander Hamilton, James I, Allen Ginsberg, Hendrik Christian Andersen, Virginia Woolf, Radclyffe Hall, Eleanor Roosevelt, Michelangelo, and many more artists and scholars that Red, White & Royal Blue teaches us about.

I can’t begin to explain the feeling of knowing that queer people have come before you, to know that people like you have a history, that they existed — have always existed. Many times throughout world history, queer people have had their lives and stories oppressed by brutal laws and an even more brutal patriarchy, but reading Alex and Henry’s emails to one another taught me that we are not alone, and we have never been alone. Alex and Henry may send quotes of love by queer people to one another to reaffirm their adoration, but what they reaffirm to me and every single queer reader is a history, a shared experience, and the knowledge that we belong.

 

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 7.38.38 pmAlexander Hamilton to John Laurens: You should not have taken advantage of my sensibility to steal my affections without my consent.

 

Alex and Henry aren’t the only amazing characters in this novel. The background characters are all just as brilliant. I adore June, Alex’s sister who is ride-or-die for her brother, and Nora, Alex’s ex-girlfriend-turned-best-friend who is a super genius. The two women are in, what I read as, a polyamorous relationship, although I could be wrong as it is quite subtle but enough for readers to pick up on. If this is the case, I hope McQuiston writes a book or novella about the throuple! I also loved Alex’s mum, who creates PowerPoint presentations whenever she needs to help her children; and I completely admire Henry’s sister, Bea, who is the only family member who loves Henry for who he is.

Red, White & Royal Blue is a long contemporary, but trust me when I say Casey McQuiston’s writing keeps you glued to the page. The prose is engaging and draws you into Alex’s story with ease. I started this book at 6:30pm one night, intending to only read a chapter before dinner, but before I knew it, it was 10pm and I had read 56% of the novel and had completely forgotten my dinner. Only a really, really, really good book can make me forget about food. I can also perfectly see Red, White & Royal Blue as a movie, and I’m going to need Netflix or Hulu or someone to make it into one ASAP.

I highly encourage everyone to get their hands on a copy of this glorious, gentle New Adult book the second it’s published. Even though I received an e-ARC of the book, I’ll be the first person standing outside my local bookstore on May 14 — and you should be too!

 

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 7.38.38 pmIn an instant of sudden, vivid clarity, he can’t believe he ever thought he was straight. 

^^(Ok, but why is Alex me?)

 

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Pre-order the novel: 

Red, White & Royal Blue Is set for publication on May 14, 2019. Check out this page to see how you can pre-order the novel and support this debut author.


All quotes were taken from an advance copy of Red, White & Royal Blue and should be checked against a final copy.

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