Thursday, April 18, 2019

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Release Date - May 14, 2019
Publisher Website - Raincoast Books 
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  432 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**received from the publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends...

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?
This is one of those books that I fell so completely in love with that words will not be enough. Red, White and Royal Blue will easily make my list of best books I read in 2019. It's the kind of book that works its way into your heart and leaves a lasting impression. It is one of those rare occurrences where a premise that dazzled me was executed to perfection.

This book a salve for those of us who were weary and broken after the 2016 election. It offers up a very bittersweet ‘what if’ but also manages to bring such joy. A female president may be something that only exists in fiction but this, somehow, makes the reader hopeful for it to one day happen in reality. It also paints a portrait of a powerful woman who can be there for her family and run the country. It is not that this should be a shocking idea, but the way that Casey crafts President Claremont circumvents some of the expectations I anticipate people are going to have. She could have been a very different character, as we see elsewhere, but I am glad she wasn't.

We get to know Henry mostly via Alex’s perspective as the story mostly exists through him. We also get to know both of them through the achingly romantic email exchanges that they exchange. The emails are the stuff of romantic legend. The kind of thing hopeless romantics dream of receiving. They, much like the relationship between the characters themselves, are a mix of humour, banter, and  emotion with just the right amount of sexual tension.  I found myself swooning one minute, giddy the next, and delirious from the amount of emotion showcased in this correspondence. The little details make all the difference and Casey McQuinston obviously gets this. The inclusion of quotes from various famous writers not only revealed a lot about the characters but their feelings in a simple, yet clever, way.

The romance is much more complex and complicated than I was expecting. This shouldn't have surprised me, but it did. I anticipated reading more of a fluffy rom-com. A book where Henry and Alex falling in love would not have ignited any backlash  just some tabloid fodder. Instead, this book is very much grounded in our reality. It's a poignant look at what falling in love in the spotlight would look like for the First Son and Prince of England. It is messy and real but always tinged with hope.

Both Alex and Henry have baggage that they need to deal with. It is baggage that relates to their romance, but would have surfaced at some point regardless. Having a story for your main characters that is separate from the romance always makes the story richer and this story is made all the better because of the detail given to building up the characters. It really is the characters who make you fall in love with this story because you wholeheartedly root for them. The obstacles they face are ones that feel organic and real that this, at time, feels like it could have been inspired by real events.

The relationships outside of the core romance are just as important to the story. The family bonds and friendships showcased add nuance and texture to the story just as well as the romance does. These other relationships add layers to the main romance and flesh out the book in important ways. I loved the dynamic and friendships that exists between Alex's group and Henry's group. They're the cool kids you want to hang out with. A group whose lives come with certain expectations that make them cling to the people who understand what that is like. Their love for one another is evident as we see them be there for each other time and time again.

I can only hope this novel finds the readers who need it. It might inspire them to, like Henry and Alex, make some history of their own. Casey McQuiston became a must read author for me after this knock out of a debut. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I expect you'll love Alex and Henry's love story as much as I did.

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