Alex is First Son of the United States and Henry is the Prince of Wales. Living on opposite sides of the Atlantic means they don’t see each other often, but over the years they’ve managed to have some memorable and tense run-ins. Alex doesn’t quite understand his fascination with Henry, but he knows that Henry wants nothing to do with him. When the two are forced to meet again at a royal wedding, drunk and irritated Alex accidentally pushes Henry, who then grabs onto Alex, sending both men tumbling down a grand staircase in front of hundreds of guests and tabloid reporters.
Their parents are less than thrilled with the altercation, and in an effort to smooth over the politically embarrassing moment, Alex and Henry are forced to orchestrate a fake friendship for the next few months. Only the “fake” friendship begins to become something more as both Alex and Henry realize the other isn’t exactly what he seems. Friendship morphs into…romantic feelings? Kind of? Maybe? Which is especially confusing for Alex since he’s (mostly?) sure he’s straight. The two men must navigate their intense and complicated relationship, all while Alex’s mother campaigns for reelection in the States and the Queen scrutinizes Henry’s every move from the throne.
So. This was an interesting experience for me. I don’t usually read gay romance, but I have to say this was a really lovely book. Alex and Henry both are extremely well-developed characters. It didn’t take me long to feel like I knew them and was invested in their stories. The plot line itself is sweet and not as predictable as I was expecting. Plus, there’s a lot more going on here than “will they or won’t they?” That dilemma is solved pretty early on, and the second half of the novel is devoted entirely to delivering a much more nuanced message about the ethical boundaries of social media and politics, as well as the efficacy of how we interact with and support the LGBTQ community.
In sum, Red, White, and Royal Blue is a really charming book, and (can I say this without sounding ignorant?) I feel like I caught a glimpse into a life I know relatively nothing about and ended up learning a lot. I finished this one feeling happy, yes, but also a little more understanding and knowledgeable. What’s not to love?
Big thank you to St. Martin’s Griffin, Casey McQuiston, and Net Galley for the ARC!