Thursday, September 26, 2019

Casey McQuiston - Red, White and Royal Blue

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?

Comment: This has been quite a hyped book recently. I've seen several positive reviews here and there about this story and I confess I was quite curious about it but at the same time I felt reluctant because it seemed as if the main characters were quite young, in that complicated stage between college and adult life. I just imagined one of those potentially silly stories featuring characters who were supposed to act as grown ups but who actually weren't so. I'm so glad I was proven wrong.

In this story we have an alternate reality story focusing in two characters that, although being part of known institutions (the US presidency and the English crown), managed to be convincing and quite easy to sympathize with because they faced romantic doubts as common as any to all the other human beings.
Alex, the son of the first female president of the US and Henry, the second grandson of the queen of England, have managed to be evidently enemies to everyone else. In order to avoid their animosity to interfere with the public opinion on their respective countries, they are forced into a fake friendship for the cameras. Of course, closer proximity among all their engagements could only lead to a serious relationship, a very basic real friendship at first, but then...

As many others did, I was quite surprised by how good it was to read this story. The author explains she started this after the US election in 2016, which apparently caught many citizens in the US in a very unexpected negative way, and she thought about what if. What if history had gone a different way instead, and this is the alternative she imagined, with all the fantasy/fictional situations included, of course.

This means I started this just as any other fiction story, just hoping to be entertained and not really concerned about the political content which, as expected, can make a lot of sense for those interested but that can be easily overlooked for those more focused on other elements.
What is really amazing here is the progress of the main characters' relationship. How they start talking more often, how, as time goes by, they get to trust each other and share things, even if by phone or email.

I'm really glad the author has depicted these characters: Alex is an American with different roots, he is confident, he knows what he wants out of life and he respects the tactics to make things smoother for his mother who, not only is a good president and needs support from every place she can but who is also a loving mother and he doesn't want to let her down.
Henry has a more complicated family life, especially since his father has died and his mother seems out of reality most of the time. He feels the pressure of tradition and expectations in a different way to Alex but that is one of the things they bond over.

Both characters have an interesting secondary supporting cast, namely both their sisters, who do help a lot with some situations.
The situations they see themselves in can seem a bit too posh, too unlikely but one must think about the settings and the ideas we all have about what life must be like for the elites.
It was, therefore, quite a great tactic to make Alex and Henry as human and fools in love as they could because I really liked reading about them and their romance. What is probably the least interesting element is the fact we get third narrator but always from Alex's POV. I'd have liked some scenes between them to be from Henry's side too.

The romance is super cute and absorbing and so emotional I went along them in their emotional journey. The way things happen, they way the author portrayed them especially Alex first inkling eh had stronger feelings for Henry, right after their first kiss...this is the type of story I like. A story where we get to see the importance of the little things as much as the big scenes. A story where the main couple isn't immediately certain of what's between them and things progress slowly but realistically for two people with doubts and careful about their feelings.
Thinking on this, I liked the sex scenes were more often alluded to and not too explicit but I'll admit I wouldn't have minded a bit more as they got to become closer and closer.

Basically, I liked every aspect of their romance. The phone conversations, the emails, the attempt to joke and the banter, the longing looks, the I-love-you declarations... the end.
The story is not perfect because some scenes don't seem to move along as smoothly but honestly I couldn't care less, it was just so cute to read about Alex's unawareness he was attracted to Henry and how they solved that issue... I'm certainly going to re-read my favorite scenes often.

This is only the third 5 starts books (according to GR) I loved this year. But of the three, it is by far my favorite, even for the simplest of reasons: it was adorably addictive to read.
Grade: 9/10

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