title: red, white & royal blue
author: casey mcquiston
genre: romance, contemporary
target audience: new adult
content warnings: homophobia, racism, sexism (all challenegd), mentions of past drug addiction, mentions of parental death and grieving of said death, alcohol, forced outing
my rating: highly recommended
red, white & royal blue is the debut novel of casey mcquiston. it is a new adult romance, following the rivalry, turned reluctant friendship, turned secret relationship, between the first son of the united states and the youngest prince of the united kingdom. alex claremont-diaz is the narrator of the story, and the son of the first female president of the united states. he has always resented the stuck up and boring prince henry, but after an incident needs to get smoothed over they are forced to put on an act of pretend friendship. the two realise that maybe they were wrong about each other, and their pretend friendship for the media turns real and evolves over late night next conversations.
i’ll be completely honest, when i first heard of this book i didn’t think much of it and didn’t even put in on my goodreads tbr. oh how foolish i was. then, all of a sudden, it was about to be released and every second tweet on my tl was hyping it up. people were reading arcs and saying it was their favourite book of the year. mason deaver, who i admire a whole lot and whose debut novel was one of my most anticipated releases of 2019, was promoting it alongside their own book. i couldn’t go online without seeing the cover pop up at least five times. it was released and people i trust a lot read and loved it.
i decided that mayyybe i had dismissed it too quickly, and requested that my library buy it. they did. my mom picked it up for me because i work long to make it to my library before they close. i read it over a weekend. i live texted my friend laura literally walls of emojis, all caps keyboard smashes, photos of quotes. needless to say, i loved it.
the writing in red, white & royal blue is so incredibly and effortlessly funny. somehow mcquiston managed to make me laugh out loud at sentences that should have been the most mundane, no funny business parts. at this point they could write the contents on the back of a shampoo bottle and i’d happily read it. it is such an extremely millennial/older gen x book, in the way alex thinks and characters speak, and you can tell mcquiston is of this generation. it’s just genuine, and it makes you fall in love with every single character. friends, family members, white house staff. they are brought to life expertly on page, but still never take any time or attention away from alex.
mcquiston says themselves in the authors note that, after the 2016 us election, this book became something more to them. a still realistic world, but where things had gone slightly different. where the democrats won over the republicans and the us got their first female president. of course all characters are made up, we’re not actually dealing with clinton and trump, but reading about this alternative world was extremely powerful. there is so much hope and optimism, while still staying real. i’m not going to spoil anything, but reading that final chapter, especially the part where alex reflects on the night his mother won the presidency, brought me to tears.
but the main part of this book is of course the romance. i love a good enemies to lovers, AND a good both-parties-are-secretly-pining-for-each-other-while-claiming-their-relationship-is-only-about-sex situation. oh the ANGST. alex and henry had me screaming and swooning and squealing. they way their relationship evolves over texts, e-mails, and phone calls, because they live literally on opposite parts of the ocean, was so lovely to see. as someone with friends in other countries, who i never get to see face to face, i always appreciate a long distance relationship that isn’t ruined by that distance. the contrast of when they do get to see each other, and how completely consumed they get by each other, is beyond satisfying. their relationship isn’t always a walk on roses, and their individual journeys in regards to their sexualities and how to be true to themselves while still carrying their responsibilities to their countries and legacies, were both heartbreaking and inspiring.
as you can tell, i had a lot i loved about this book. i do have two problems with it, and these are the reasons i didn’t give it five stars on goodreads. firstly, alex is part mexican, and while i do love him and that this is a book about a bisexual mexican man, i wish that the chance to write that character would have gone to a bisexual mexican. from what i have understood, casey mcquiston is white. their intentions are obviously good, but the reality is that now that this book by a white author is out there, publishers will hesitate to say yes to another book with a bi mexican main character because they already have this one.
the second problem i have is dangerously close to spoiler territory, so i’m not going to say too much about it, but a very common trope was used as a big plot point towards the end of the book. it is one that i find very unnecessary, honestly a bit lazy, and that can be extremely traumatic to many readers. most people i see talking about this book call it cute and fluffy, and while it is that in many parts, it is also very heavy. a lot because of the general nature of the book, what with alex and henry having a secret relationship that they can’t tell people about because they’re both men, but also hugely because of the plot point. if you want to know what happens you can dm me on twitter, because while it is a big spoiler, self care is way more important and you need to be safe while reading.
i realise i got a bit negative there, but i do love this book. like all others it has some problems, but also so many lovely, funny, touching moments. it weaves in politics in a very natural way, it’s sarcastic and relatable, and first and foremost it’s hopeful for the future. if you’re looking for a witty queer romance with an amazing cast of characters, i’d highly recommend you pick up red, white & royal blue.