Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston is a rare and uplifting novel that tells a queer romance story with both honesty and joy.
About the Plot
Alex Claremont-Diaz is a college senior, a political hopeful, and the son of the first woman president of the United States. Alex is used to being in the spotlight, and he does not mind the political events that fill his days; that is when those gatherings do not involve one particularly dull world leader: Prince Henry of England. So when an encounter between the pair at a royal wedding goes awry, and they are accidentally photographed looking like they were in a physical altercation, they have to do some damage control: they must fake a close friendship for the press in order to preserve international relations.
After some time engaging in this ruse, Alex is surprised to find he is fighting two uncomfortable truths: the first, that maybe he is enjoying being friends Henry, who may not be that boring after all, and the second, that he might be feeling something even more than friendship, (and that Henry appears to feel the same way). As Alex tries to focus on finishing his degree, starting his political career, and using his political position to fight for justice from the walls of the White House, he is troubled to find that even the things he is most passionate about may not be enough to distract him from this.
A Rare Romance Done Right
What follows Alex’s realization is a tale of tender, passionate hidden romance. Alex and Henry weigh the reality of a world that may or may not be ready to accept them and find both internal and external acceptance and joy along the way. McQuiston writes queer romance in a rare way that feels beautiful and relatable (despite the not-so-relatable political positions and situations the characters find themselves in).
McQuistion does not shy away from the traditional elements of a romance novel but writes them more believably: The steamy scenes in the novel are not lewd but range from utterly silly to passionate, and the poetic love letters she includes are interspersed with short text conversations and sweet late-night phone calls.
Furthermore, while the romance is the primary focus of the story, Alex and Henry are also portrayed as complex individuals; they are realistic intellectuals and well-developed characters who can joke, quote poetry, and grapple with injustice. The political leanings of the novel will not suit all readers’ tastes, and many of the socio-political issues touched on are vastly oversimplified. However, the emails McQuiston includes between Alex and Henry that discuss the realities of their privilege and their mutual hope of using it to make the world a better place are timely and largely representative of the generation they portray.
Overall, Red, White & Royal Blue feels like the romance novel I wish I could have read years ago. McQuiston’s twenty-something-year-old characters do not have it all figured out, but her story is filled with hope that they will find their way. Her words are profoundly comforting, and it is a joy to read such a beautifully written and relatable queer romance that avoids the tragic cloud that so often accompanies LGBTQ+ stories. It is a perfectly balanced book, somewhere between realism and escapism.
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|Pub Date: May 14, 2019||Page Count: 448pp||Age Range: 14 & Over|
|ISBN: 978-1-2503-1677-6||Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin||List Price: $16.99|