Title: Red, White & Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston
Publication date: 2019
Date started: 03/01/2020
Date finished: 08/01/2020
First sentence: “On the White House roof, tucked into a corner of the Promenade, there’s a bit of loose paneling right on the edge of the Solarium.”
Last sentence: “Under winter clouds, victorious, he unlocks the door.”
Favorite sentence: “What are we even defending here, Philip? What kind of legacy? What kind of family, that says, we’ll take the murder, we’ll take the raping and pillaging and the colonizing, we’ll scrub it up nice and neat in a museum, but oh no, you’re a bloody poof? That’s beyond our sense of decorum!”
Summary: Alex is the son of the President of the United States. He loves politics and wants to make a career of it, and he is quite used to his life being scrutinized intensely by journalists. He’s a Democrat, a handsome, half-mexican 20-something boy, and generally held as a dream bachelor by the media. When he goes to England for the wedding of a Prince and gets into an altercation with the other Prince – Henry – which goes public, his mother creates a plan to soothe international relationships: he will go back to England, spend some time with Henry as if they were best friends, and smile to journalists. The problem with this plan is that Alex absolutely hates Henry; he thinks he is full of himself and utterly boring. However, after they spend some time together, they start to tolerate each other, before becoming really good friends! One evening, when Alex invited Henry to his New Years Eve party at the White House, Henry kisses Alex… before running away and ghosting him. Alex is confused, because he thinks he’s straight, but Henry’s kiss really moved something inside him so he goes to talk about it to his best friend (and ex girlfriend) Nora, who is bisexual, and helps him to come to terms with his own bisexuality. Henry still isn’t answering, but next time they have to meet for diplomatic reasons, Alex corners him and they kiss passionately… before spending the night together. They agree to keep this very casual, and manage to sustain their hidden relationship for a few months. Henry’s sister June realizes what’s happening and is ok with it, Nora knew from the start, Pez (Henry’s very gender non conforming and philanthropic best friend) knew before it even happened, and both Henry and Alex’s bodyguards know, but nobody else. All is well until one day Zahra, the First Family’s manager, walks in on them… She freaks out, but understands that they won’t stay apart, so she tells Alex to tell his mother. The President takes the news of her son’s bisexuality very well, but is a bit worried about his relationship with Henry, and tells him to ask himself if he feels like the relationship will last forever. The question panics Alex at first, but he soon realizes that he’s in love with Henry and does feel “forever” about him… When he’s about to tell him, Henry freaks out and flies back to England before ghosting Alex – again. One week later Alex is fed up and he flies to England to confront Henry. Henry reveals that he’s always been in love with Alex, but that he’s a Royal so he can’t have a serious relationship with a man. After long talks, he decides to give up his royalty if needed and that Alex is more important. He even gives his signet ring to Alex as a symbol of that! They decide that they’ll take their time and come out to the world in their own time, but unfortunately some paparazzi manage to get pictures of them and their whole love story is revealed to the world, including their private emails… The Royal Family is in complete communication shutdown and Alex is really worried about Henry’s well being, so Zahra flies them to England one more time. She reveals that she’s engaged to Henry’s bodyguard Shaan so she can probably convince him to let them through. The boys reunite and decide to go talk to the Queen. Henry’s older brother Philip tries to remind him of his duties and that he shouldn’t confirm his relationship to the public, but Henry’s mother is ready to fight for him. The Queen tries to prevent them from going public, but Henry’s mother pressures her, and Henry’s sister Bea shows her how much the public seems to support them (people are showing their support in front of Buckingham and all other the world at the same time) so they are allowed to be together… Alex gives a speech about it, coming out as bisexual, confirming his love for Henry, and asking people to not let this influence their votes. Because the Presidential elections are coming, and they’re quite worried that this scandal will cost them the votes of bigoted people. But they discover that the paparazzi were sent by the President’s rival, and this ultimately swings some votes in their favor. Alex’s mother is reelected, even turning Texas blue! And Alex is now an official suitor of the Prince!
Opinion: This was a great first read of the decade!! It’s a sweet love story with a complicated setting which makes it all the more interesting. I loved that the main problem in this story was not the characters coming to terms with their sexuality, but more how would they manage to conquer the obstacles in the way of them being open about their love. The story was very layered, and kept me glued to my book from beginning to end. One aspect that I was not expecting was the amount of gay history disseminated throughout the book! It made me really happy that people like me lived and said similar things as I do now centuries ago (of course I knew this theoretically but it’s something else to read excerpts from letters and see it for myself). It made me want to learn more about queer history! Another aspect that I loved in this book was the constant criticism of the monarchy’s history and of the US’s imperialism – because with those main characters, I was a bit worried things would be glossed over. It also made me really sad for the Royals trapped in their legacy, and the fact that Henry abdicated 2 days after I finished this book was extremely well timed! Anyway, this was really good, and I highly recommend it!
“‘Diaz, you insane, hopeless romantic little shit,’ says the voice of the President of the United States, muffled in the bed. ‘It had better be forever. Be safe.'”
“‘It’s funny,’ Henry says. ‘I always thought of the whole thing as the most unforgivable thing about me, but you act like it’s one of the best.’
‘Oh, yeah,’ Alex says. ‘The top list of reasons to love you goes brain, then dick, then imminent status as a revolutionary gay icon.’
‘You are quite literally Queen Victoria’s worst nightmare.’
‘And that’s why you love me.'”