“Red, White, & Royal Blue”: A Heartfelt Romantic Comedy

Artwork of Alex and Henry featured on the interior of the Red, White, & Royal Blue hardcover.
Artwork of Alex and Henry featured on the interior of the Red, White, & Royal Blue hardcover.
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“Red, White, & Royal Blue (RWRB)” is a clever romantic comedy novel written by queer author Casey McQuinston and published in 2019. The book follows Alex Claremont-Diaz, the son of the US president, and Prince Henry, the heir to the English throne in RWRB’s alternate universe. After a public scuffle between the two ends in them being covered in a $75,000 cake at the latest royal wedding, their respective teams force them into a PR friendship to save face for both countries, which eventually turns into something more.

McQuinston has such a unique writing style that somehow manages to make these bizarre characters in bizarre situations feel like real people and be very relatable to the audience. The fictional president, Ellen Claremont, talks to her family casually, swears often, and sits on the floor eating pizza with her family. Alex is very close with his mother and her staff, and while they obviously want to keep appearances, they never put that before their family and feel like normal people who just happen to be in a big position of power. Alex’s politician parents are also divorced, with them attempting to co-parent despite their differences and common arguments, with Alex’s step-father also being a positive presence in the house. The book is grounded in realism and makes these miraculous characters seem like everyday people.

Another thing that I find impressive is McQuinston’s use of the third-person perspective. Third person is something that can sometimes take you out of the world of the book, with the ever-immersive first-person perspective being the most common point of view used in the Young Adult genre of which RWRB falls into. For RWRB, it actually works to the book’s advantage. The book clearly chronicles Alex as the main character and the majority of the book has this snaky playfulness that is characteristic of Alex without even having to use words like “I”. In addition to that, there is an extra chapter at the end of the book told from Henry’s perspective, and the slight change in style and wording as well as the incorporation of British vernacular makes his chapter feel very distinct. McQuinston uses the third-person perspective in a very intriguing and creative way.

The book is hilarious in a very natural way, with many of the characters being sarcastic and silly. It isn’t trying to be funny but manages to hit the comedy every time. I appreciate that the story doesn’t need crazy antics to get laughs from readers and that some of the funniest moments are just when the characters are speaking to each other. Alex and his mother’s chief of staff, Zahra are extremely amusing together. Alex constantly causes trouble which gets Zahra upset and leads to her comically threatening and scolding him, saying things like, “…you can hate the heir to the throne all you want, write mean poems about him in your diary, but the minute you see a camera, you act like the sun shines out of his d**k, and you make it convincing.” and “Every time I see you, it takes another year off my life.”

The book also centers on the relationship between “The White House Trio” consisting of Alex, his older sister June, and their best friend (and daughter of the vice president) Nora. The bond between the three of them is a driving force for lots of the story. Nora and Alex’s annual New Years kiss leads to Prince Henry confessing his feelings for Alex and sets off their relationship, and June later on helps Alex write his address to the nation after he and Henry’s relationship is exposed. They are pillars for Alex, and eventually for Henry as well when he, his own older sister Bea, and best friend Pez become close with them as well, with the six of them later being coined by the public as “The Super Six.” This is a story that is built on the relationships between the characters within it, and bonds all of them together exceptionally well.

The romantic relationship between Alex and Henry is very intense, tension-filled, and interesting from beginning to end. While the two are at odds in the beginning, they spew quips at each other constantly, consistently getting on each other’s nerves. The progression of their relationship feels very natural, with them becoming closer as they continue to see moments of softness and humanity in each other, but despite them seeing each other in a new light, they never lose the quick remarks that make their interactions so interesting, but instead add the romantic emotions onto it. Alex and Henry’s romance is epic, filled with spontaneous flights to each other, secret romantic encounters, and a strong layer of angst because of how their status as public figures restricts them. Henry, being the prince of England, is the most hopeless out of the two. While Alex keeps saying that things will work out “one day,” Henry has absolutely no faith that he can ever truly be himself because of the position he was born into. After tons of attempts at fighting his feelings for Alex and disappearing acts, Henry must finally learn to prioritize his own happiness and be brave, fighting for the life that he wants.

The story hits its peak after Alex and Henry’s relationship is exposed to the public and gives the readers intense feelings of dread, and eventually joy once both countries accept the boys with open arms. Sadly, after their relationship issues are solved, the book falls into a slump. You’d think that it’d be over after their love conquers its major obstacle, but instead, the book goes on and leans fully into politics, taking many readers out of the story and its original vibe. The book did a good job in the beginning balancing everything that it wanted to be: a story of forbidden romance, the love and help of family and friends, and a political insight. But once the romance aspect is over with, they lose the balance immediately, making the last few chapters feel like a completely different book.

Overall though, “Red, White, & Royal Blue” is a fun, immersive romance that makes you feel every emotion as the characters experience them. It is comedic and heartwarming at times, gut-wrenching and anxiety-inducing at others. It’s quirky, and relatable, and truly has something in it for everyone. And despite its weaker points, the reading experience as a whole is definitely a good one. I give “Red, White, & Royal Blue” four stars, and definitely recommend it!

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