Review: Red, White & Royal Blue
‘Red, White & Royal Blue’ by Casey McQuiston.
A review by Megan Robinson.
What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales? Well, that’s exactly the plot for Red, White & Royal Blue. Set in an alternate reality, Alex’s mother is the first female president of the USA. He’s handsome, charismatic, genius – his image is pure marketing gold for the White House. There’s just one problem: Alex has major beef with Prince Henry of Wales. And when the tabloids get a hold of an altercation between the two of them, US/British relations take a turn for a worse. What begins as a fake Instagrammable relationship, for damage control, becomes something much more that could derail the presidential campaign and upend two nations. It raises the question: Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be?
Red, White & Royal Blue is McQuiston’s debut novel, and boy, what a debut novel it is. Regardless of the fact that I am a SUCKER for enemies to lovers’ romances, the writing style is immaculate and the development of Alex and Henry’s relationship is just beautiful to read. The novel is written from the 2nd person perspective of Alex. I absolutely adored reading Alex’s internal monologue figuring out his feelings about Henry and face-palming at the moments where it was obvious Henry is interested in him and Alex is oblivious.
It was also nice to read about someone in their early twenties questioning their sexuality. A lot of gay romances I have read have the protagonist be ‘I’m not gay, I just am in love with this one man because he’s different, but I’m 100% a straight man,’ and it gets tiring after a while. I liked that Alex didn’t have the revelation that he was gay, but rather that he is bisexual and he acknowledges his attraction to women but also has revelations about his past homosexual experiences that he never thought more about before. Something I loved more than this though, was having Henry be 100% confident in the fact that he is gay. No questioning, no internal dilemma that he is not only a prince but a prince that is in love with a man; he is gay. Period. Such a refreshing experience.
The way McQuiston writes their relationship is stunning. My heart was overflowing with emotions. When Alex realised he was in love with Henry, I was emotional. When they were on the brink of breaking up due to duties, I was emotional. When they professed their love for each other to their families, I WAS EMOTIONAL. A writing technique that I really enjoyed in this book, were the emails that Henry and Alex would send one another. It’s revealed that Henry likes to keep physical things that are important to him which is why he and Alex email each other, so Henry can have a physical/digital copy of their interactions that he can read again whenever he wants. But the part that I like most about the emails was that they would both sign off their emails with a quote about love (9/10 times about implied gay love) throughout history, from Hamilton to Woolfe.
I cannot deny that McQuiston did a lot of research when writing this book, both about her homeland America (details about the White House and how different states politics differ) and about the UK (she talks about Cornetto’s and Jaffa Cakes and actually has Henry use ‘mum’!!! I have read so many novels set in England by American writers who use ‘mom’ and it makes my eyes roll.) However, I feel like, for as much research that has been done, McQuiston could’ve done more with her novel. There’s a lot about Alex talking about various injustices within America, from immigration laws to voting laws and LGBT issues, and how his goal is to help everyone in America. The same cannot be said for Henry in the UK. McQuiston does make Henry acknowledge how the royal family themselves are problematic, built from a system of racism and slavery but where is the talk about how useless the British government is? How children are starving and the government voted to not give them free school meals. How homelessness is on the rise. How the minimum wage isn’t increasing to match the increasing cost of living from housing, taxes, and a pathetic Universal Credit system. Where is Henry’s passion to help his own people? It’s great he acknowledges that the royal family are mostly for display now and the horrible ways they have grown and remained in power, but wouldn’t he want to be the change and help the people of his country just like Alex? You could argue that because it is an alternate reality, McQuiston may have made the UK a better place, but since the US systems are the same and the only real changes seem to be the royal family and presidential family, I highly doubt this and I think it would’ve been amazing if McQuiston had acknowledged the UK’s systematic issues as much as she acknowledges the US’s issues. Especially since this novel became such a phenomenon, it could’ve helped spread to wider audiences the issue that both of these countries face and perhaps end the book with resources to charities and organisations and petitions to help these issues.
Despite this, Red White & Royal Blue was a lovely novel, and one of the best enemies to lovers’ books I have read in a long time. If you are looking for a heartfelt gay romance with an amazing writing style and prose that flows perfectly, this is the book for you. I advise everyone to add this to their reading lists.
Review by Megan.