I’m not quite sure how Casey Mcquinston’s debut novel Red, White & Royal Blue escaped my notice while I was doing research for my most anticipated books of 2019 list, or during all the time I spent browsing Book Twitter in the months leading up to, and the weeks after, the book’s release. Was nobody talking about this book? Or am I just following the wrong people?
Frankly, I am offended. Somebody should have told me about this book earlier.
Anyways, it worked out that I discovered Red, White & Royal Blue on the first day of Pride month, when I stumbled across a glorious Twitter account that is doing the very important work of tweeting out random snippets from the book so that everyone can see how wonderful it is. To whoever runs that account: thank you. I took me about ten minutes after discovering the account to pull up the Kobo website and purchase the ebook for what would quickly become one of my favourite books of all time.
And this is why, this Pride Month, I am passing on the message to all of you: read this book. If there is one new release you read this year, make it this one.
Red, White and Blue follows a boy named Alex, who is the son of America’s first female president – yes, we’re pretending the 2016 election went down very differently and was won by a cool progressive woman. Understandably, Alex and his sister June are under a massive spotlight, especially in the year leading up to the 2020 election. So when a confrontation between Alex and his sworn enemy, Prince Henry of Wales, goes very public, a whole lot of damage control is in order.
The solution proposed by the White House and the Royal Family is for the two boys to fake a bromance. If they can just be photographed hanging out in public a few times, the world will see that the US and the UK like each other just fine, and that Alex’s mom’s administration is perfectly good at foreign relations. Naturally, though, the plan works a little bit too well, as Alex and Henry end up falling in love.
History, huh? Bet we could make some.
What follows is a beautiful story that finds a perfect balance between humour and heart. Red White & Royal Blue is endlessly quotable and full of scenes that will have the people around you wondering why you keep giggling at your book. Every single character is well fleshed out. It’s very fun and more than a little bit ridiculous, but underneath all that is an honest look at the current political climate in the United States. It shows a young man figuring out his sexuality while in the public eye, fully aware that going public with his relationship could mean the end of his career. It’s a book all about minorities in positions of power fighting for a better world, even when the world doesn’t seem ready for them. It’s honest and it’s insightful and maybe it’s a little bit too optimistic at times, but we could all do with a healthy dose of optimism these days.
“Because I’m not like the rest of the men of this family, beginning with the fact that I am very deeply gay, Philip.”
The world this book is set in isn’t a perfect world by any means, but it’s certainly a slightly better world than the one we live in now.
Now of course, I could not write a review of this book without mentioning the romance, which is truly one of the best I’ve read in recent years. Alex and Henry bounce off each other so well and the sexual tension between them is off the charts. They’re also just freaking adorable. Every scene with the two of them was so good I wanted to re-read it immediately. Hate-to-love stories are just better than all the other love stories, aren’t they?
Red White and Royal Blue is exactly what New Adult Fiction should be. It’s a book that’s able to tell the story it wants to tell without worrying about censoring itself for a younger audience, but that still has all the fun of Young Adult. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and I am recommending it to everyone I know. Please read it. You will not regret it.