We’re back! At the beginning of June my bookstore was able to reopen partially to the public, and then a week ago we were able to open more fully. That was, I hope understandably, very stressful. But this week I could finally take some time to sit back and head out to my in-laws beach house for some much needed R&R. I took Red, White & Royal Blue with me, and as Laura’s been hounding me to post her review for it, I figured why not do both of our reviews here!
From the Back Cover:
What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?
When his mother became President of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius – his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with an actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex/Henry altercation U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.
Heads of family and state and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: Stage a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instagrammable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the presidential campaign and upend two nations. It raises the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through?
Do you want the good news first, or the bad news first? We’ll start with the good news and I’ll be a gracious sister and let Laura go first.
I had seen this book around my favorite indie bookstore, the Towne Book Center, and was intrigued. But I tend to be skeptical of books that receive a lot of praise or are constantly recommended to me. That’s not really fair to the books but I have been disappointed in this past. BUT, this book does NOT disappoint in any way whatsoever and I am so GLAD that I did read it because once I started, I could not put it down!
I do not know where to start with all of the good things I have to say about this book! It was an absolute joy to read and I quickly became consumed by the story and fell in love with all the characters. Reading this is like getting to experience the alternate reality that the man currently occupying the Oval Office had lost and we did not live in a world of fear and wondering which non-white male section of the population will be targeted next. Enter the adorableness that is Alex and Henry and their enemies to friends to lovers relationship.
I pretty much read this all in one sitting (as much as I could with life getting in the way) as I could not get enough of Alex, Henry, and their relationship. The banter between the two and the complex emotions of realizing they were actually in love with each other and what the repercussions of their romance would mean for American-British relations. In addition to the wonderfulness that is Alex and Henry, the supporting characters – from their family members to the President’s deputy chief of staff, to Henry’s equerry, and all the others, they are engaging and well-rounded characters who bring much to the story.
In anticipation of writing this review I reread the book this week and it was just as delightful as the first time and I relished in the pure escapism it provides its readers. With everything going on in the world, I’ve been telling all my friends and sister that they have to read this book because it is guaranteed to put you in a happy place and let you believe, for at least a little while, that there is still some hope in this world for a better future.
Rating: 9 out of 10 stars
Red, White & Royal Blue was first put into my hands as an advance copy by one of our sales reps at the store (the one who usually recommends the most terrific books) and she told me I would love it, being the royal enthusiast I am. But when she gave it to me (almost two years ago), I wasn’t reading fiction and I definitely wasn’t digging contemporary romance. But I held onto it, knowing at some point I’d circle back and want to pick it up. When I made my goal this year of reading a book from every one of our 12 book clubs at the store, I figured this would be a great one for me to read from our Rainbow Reads Book Club.
Two of my coworkers and my sister gushing over Red, White & Royal Blue should have been enough inspiration to read it, and I figured once I did, it would make for a cool blog post for the bookstore blog – so rarely do many of us read the same book. And then I thought, if I was going to write about what we thought, I should get the opinion of the person who leads the Rainbow Reads Book Club and add their voice to the mix. But their reaction wasn’t necessarily what I expected – summed up, it was a recommendation for me not to read it.
In the publishing world, and as a bookseller, we focus a lot on trying to stock our shelves with authentic voices and from the get-go I had difficulty with the fact that a bi white woman was writing the story of a bi Mexican-American young man. Yes, their both bi, but the experience of growing up biracial in America is a very unique one, one that I know I am certainly unqualified to handle depicting accurately in a book. I also know that I could be projecting, and I would really like to know what those who identify with the protagonist on multiple levels think about Casey’s depiction of that experience.
Okay, that aside, Red, White & Royal Blue is chock full of sex. I enjoy a smutty read from time to time, and goodness knows one of my favorite royal fiction books has it’s fair share. But here I found it incredibly distracting. A few scenes, sure, absolutely, put it in there. But every time the characters interact in person? Eh, maybe not so much. And yes, I know, long distance relationship, new love, all of that, but I would have liked just a little less description and a little more fade to black.
I also came to the realization that I don’t like my books to be completely “fluffy.” I like there to be some tension, some drama, some deeper connection to the characters and a little more meat to my plot. There were a number of aspects of the characters that I could relate to (I lost a parental figure to pancreatic cancer as a teen just like Henry) and my own royal fan fiction (because let’s face it, it all is) has a FSOTUS named Alex and a young queen who loses her dad, the king, to pancreatic cancer as a teen too. But I didn’t feel any tension while reading. The one little blip in Alex and Henry’s relationship (between each other, not the outside world) is wrapped up in 10 pages or less.
It just felt so unrealistic, beyond the usual need to suspend reality when it comes to reading about royalty, and all the events were incredibly predictable. A private email server? His mom’s re-election campaign? Everyone in the families being incredibly supportive rather quickly? Eh, I just didn’t understand why I was still reading by the time I was two thirds of the way through. If you like your books fluffy, go back up to Laura’s review and grab a copy to take home and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. If you like your fluffy books with a touch more substance, I suggest passing on this one.
Rating: 6 out of 10 stars
Where to Buy
In the USA, I recommend purchasing through BookShop or your local independent, in the UK, and many other parts of the world, I recommend Blackwell’s, and if neither of those cover where you live, I recommend checking out your local booksellers! Independent bookstores are vital parts of every local community and I wholly endorse supporting your local stores versus Amazon.