Have I got your attention? Good! That’s about how I felt when I started reading Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue. A little shocked, a little surprised, a little bit, “Oh, what’s this, now?” You see, I didn’t do much background research, over even a casual web browse, about this book before I started reading it. I had seen it spoken about so glowingly on Twitter and by book blogger friends, and the reviews were generally so overwhelmingly good, that I followed my instinct and bought it, assuming I would enjoy it. The thing is, I thought this was a young adult novel and realized only during the first (of many) sex scenes that (cough) much to my chagrin, this one is rather adult. I suppose it would be classified as an adult romance novel?
I’m not sure how I missed that this one was an adult novel rather than a YA, except to say that the cover is a bit deceptive and that a number of people who I saw rating/reviewing/talking about this one are typically YA readers. I also ordered the book online, so I didn’t have the benefit of searching the stacks at my local bookstore for it, which probably would have quickly corrected my incorrect assumptions. Well, what do I say now?
The book is good. The book is also one of a genre that I very rarely read, so I’m a bit at a loss as to what to say about it. Is it a good romance novel? I don’t know – I’ve not much to compare it to. It certainly was a good story, though, and if you happen to enjoy (same-sex) love scenes, then you’re two for two so far in the “meeting or exceeding expectations” category, I think. Anyway, to the story:
Alex Claremont-Diaz is the 21-year-old son of President Claremont, the first female president of the United States. He’s also half-Mexican American, and his family is from Texas. Hello, political drama! In the midst of his mother’s re-election campaign, Alex begins to discover two things: first, that his long-time feelings for a particular member of the English royal family are more than he realized; and second, that he has a particular calling, one that might take more patience than his temperament would typically allow. Just as Alex takes important steps to grow into manhood and to develop his first honest, loving relationship with another person, scandal breaks. Can Alex be the partner his boyfriend needs him to be? Can he handle the scrutiny of the world gazing intently at his every move? Can he bear the thought of being the reason why his mother might lose re-election? Thankfully, he’s getting a whole lot of hot, steamy sex to keep him calm and motivated while the world seems to tumble down around him.
It’s not too long into the novel that you realize the book is based heavily on the 2016 elections right here in the United States, but thank heavens it takes a positive and hopeful tone, despite incorporating a number of current, relevant, and recognizable socio-cultural and political themes, including characters that are, well, awful. Casey McQuiston writes in the afterward that she began the book before the 2016 election and had to stop after the results. It makes perfect sense that one kind of alternate parallel universe was the original impetus for this one, but thank goodness McQuiston returned to the story after putting it down when the election went so wildly wrong. This is indeed a book that many will find comfort in for a lot of reasons, both because it looks hopefully and lovingly toward the future, and because it is a sweet, passionate romance story fleshed out with characters to root for, believable situations to get caught up in, and a resolution that is perfectly satisfying.
There were a few plot points that I struggled with, but I did enjoy this one. As I said, it’s not my usual kind of read, and it’s not necessarily a genre that I would go back to soon or regularly, but now I do understand how and why adult romance has become so popular. Red, White & Royal Blue is a wonderful escape buttressed by important cultural issues and thoughtful historical and political factoids that are integrated so well, one doesn’t realize they are being educated and entertained at the same time. And that is my kind of story.
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