Title: Red, White & Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston
Genre(s): New Adult Fiction, LGBTQA+, Romance, Politics
Gisselle's Rating: 5/5
DISCLAIMER: This review may contain spoilers for Red, White & Royal Blue.
I was a little late to the Red, White & Royal Blue hype-train, but I finally managed to read through McQuiston's debut novel after finishing One Last Stop and, let me tell you, they did not disappoint!
Red, White, & Royal Blue follows the life of Alex Claremont-Diaz, the First Son of the United States and oldest child of the President, Ellen Claremont. After nearly a full term of living at the White House under his mother's Presidency, Alex knows how to conduct himself and what is expected of a socialite in his standing, especially when it comes to international affairs; however, he cannot seem to shake his disdain for the Prince of England, Prince Henry of Wales, someone Alex believes to be incredibly stuck-up, posh, and cold. When a photograph of Alex and Henry caught mid-confrontation at the Royal Wedding is leaked to the presses, both the United States and England are forced to execute damage control. Their solution: stage a close friendship between Alex and Henry to quell any rumors of antagonistic feelings between the two men. Yet, the more time Alex and Henry spend with one another, they closer they become, and soon both men are thrusted into the complex world of navigating a relationship out of sight of the public and their respective families.
I love, love, love this book. I was afraid that this was going to be a recommendation that popped up on my social media feeds that was not going to live up to its hype, but I could not have been happier to be proven wrong. Red, White & Royal Blue is a beautiful story about being a queer character and the inner turmoil and questions they confront themselves with, but it is made unique by the incorporating the complicated world of what can happened with they are also in the public sphere. Celebrities are always under scrutiny from the media and the general populace, but Alex and Henry are not simply famous: they are, quite literally, royalty, or as close to royalty as one can get.
Alex's 'gay panic' (he is, as far as I was able to determine, bisexual in the novel) was wonderfully and humorously relatable. There were so many moments where he tried to justify certain actions in his youth, like checking guys out in the shower or partaking in mutual handjobs with his best friend, where I literally clicked my tongue and went, "Oh, honeeey." Yet, it made sense for these attempts at justifications to occur when Alex spent so much of his life believing that he was straight or not even conceiving that he could be. Alex's journey of self-discovery was a part of the book that endeared me to him, and while he spent quite a bit of time mulling over this new aspect to his identity, he was also comfortable enough with his feelings toward Henry that he readily accepted this part of himself with the support of his family and friends.
Henry and Alex's relationship has everything: enemies-to-lovers, scandalous forbidden love, and sweet communications that wax poetic (sometimes literally) to each other of their shared devotion. I also enjoyed the interjections of historical figures and their letters, and the indication that history hid a lot of LGBTQA+ people and disguised many of their intimate communications as those of 'friendship.' McQuiston introduces an uplifting thesis of breaking through the gag that history has placed on LGBTQA+ people and let everyone know that we are here. I nearly broke into tears when Alex and Henry witness the community showing up for them, brandishing Pride flags, their quote of "History, huh?" appearing in waves among the crowd. It was such a beautiful moment in the book and it wrecked me to see the love and support that Alex and Henry were receiving en mass.
The chemistry between Henry and Alex was extraordinarily fun to watch develop; even when they were at odds with one another, their connection was riddled with an electricity that was palpable through the pages, and it only strengthened once they acknowledged and acted upon their desire and love for each other. Their banter, their flirting, and their tender love all made my heart swell up and caused me to clutch the book to my chest with a delighted sigh on more than one occasion. Red, White & Royal Blue roused laughter and tears alike from me, and the love story between Alex and Henry was certainly one for history.
Red, White & Royal Blue is about two young men trying desperately to find their place in a harsh society that does not want them to be true to themselves, being forced to consider what is best for their respective nations, and choosing and loving each other regardless of what was expected of them. I won't forget the story of Alex and Henry, and I won't be surprised if Red, White & Royal Blue ends up being my favorite novel that I read this year!