A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…
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?
Is it possible for your whole body to grin? The answer is hell yes.
Red, White & Royal Blue is a story lit up like a beacon to the weary and the lost. My heart still swells with so much delight. The notion of memory simply fails to adequately capture the sensation. I know the words but none of them really encompass the feeling of deep contentment, mixed with the kind of frustration one feels at waking from a sweet dream. I promise you that what memories you will keep of this book will warm you in the cold, and taste sweet when the world runs sour. Do not miss it.
So, what’s this book about?
Ah, yes. The one trope that sings to me the most: enemies to “ugh I can’t believe I have to be in the same vicinity as you” to “ugh we’re forced to work together to save our countries’ reputations but it’s not like I like you or anything” to “wait, we actually connect pretty well and have a lot of things in common but don’t read too much into it” to “I would lay down both of my kidneys for you but that doesn’t mean anything alright” to “I’ll fistfight the moon for you and kill anyone who dares lay a finger on you” to lovers.
Alex Claremont-Diaz, the Mexican-American first son of the United States, tolerates Henry, the Prince of England, to about the same degree that Henry tolerates him, but the claws are never entirely sheathed. When one of their verbal sparring matches ends in a “cataclysmically, internationally, terrible way”, Alex and Henry had no choice but to play nice with each other. Of course, building a friendship with your sworn nemesis is never easy. Doing it out of a reluctant sense of obligation is virtually impossible. Only, neither Alex nor Henry were prepared for when it all ceased being pretend. There was no pretending away the momentous thing tentatively taking shape between them. Henry had worn at the shell surrounding Alex’s heart with every traded truth, every phone call at an ungodly hour and every stolen moment in a hotel room. And with every crack, it became harder to deny the connection blazing between them.
Yet, all the same, reality threatens to shatter it all.
“Do you feel forever about him?”
And there’s no room left to agonize over it, nothing left to do but say the thing he is known all along. “Yeah,” he says, “I do.”
Red, White & Royal Blue is an astonishingly polished debut novel. A beguiling story of romance that pulled a smile from a new place in me where so much delight had been waiting in reserve. The novel’s warm heart leaped out to my cold one, and I held on like I suspected this all of being a dream that’s about to end and leave me falling. I found myself drawing out the last 50 pages or so, absolutely unable, unwilling, to let this joyous little book go. The story wrote itself into my memory and even when I closed my eyes, images of the story kept playing across the darkness again and again.
The rumors are true, folks: I am a hopeless romantic.
All I want is for someone to feel for me some glimmer of what Henry and Alex feel for each other. To find that one person who has so much aching tenderness for you, who you can talk to and emerge each time a bit less bewildered, a bit more yourself. The one person who will attach the ends of the tightrope from one skyscraper to the next and make you believe that you can make it across, even when you can barely place a foot in front of the other, who will help you lay the skeins of your life out neatly, so there’d be less of a tangle in your heart. Just the sheer joy of simply knowing another human being.
There’s such a flood of love spooling out between Henry and Alex, tender and joyful and pure. All wrapped up in the safety and warmth of two people who have passed a point of recognition, of openness, who stood side by side, braced together against the future, knowing that whatever life might force on them, and however it might fail them, they will still have each other. I love how Alex had glided into love unaware, not knowing if it was love or just a suchlike cousin. Then, he plummeted, and it was unmistakable. And all the while, Henry has been there, with a lit cinder of hope in his gaze, and the calm resignation to the inevitable that you’d associate with people aching with the yearning to be loved back.
When Alex was a kid, before anyone knew his name, he dreamed of love like it was a fairy tale, as if it would come sweeping into his life on the back of a dragon one day. When he got older, he learned about love as a strange thing that could fall apart no matter how badly you wanted it, a choice you make anyway. He never imagined it’d turn out he was right both times.
Henry deserves the world, but the world doesn’t deserve him. Nothing will ever be more hilarious to me than the fact that Henry’s character, when translated by Alex’s gaze in the beginning, is this unbearably supercilious heir, vigorously bearded with an air of having been grudgingly forced into court elegance, whose body is hardened into armor and whose smiles are pickled things. But then that image quickly melts away, revealing this achingly compassionate person whom the stars would be so proud to know their atoms have created someone like him.
I love Henry so much. His entire life, he had sailed upon the quiet ripple of his parents’ lives, struggling against the confines of family and legacy and creating a life all his own. But there was so much gold in him, the shine dimmed by years of telling himself there was something wrong with the way he was made. The enormity of this burden was so great it almost wore Henry out, and it smote my heart. But seeing him later embrace the certainty that he’s deserving of compassion and kindness and understanding—it genuinely made me at once gutted and filled with unspeakable tenderness for him. I’m so glad Alex was there to help him see the aspects of his being that were in darkness even to him and give him hope before he had even considered hope to be possible.
“Take anything you want and know you deserve to have it.”
Speaking of Alex. I love him. That’s it. That’s the whole statement.
Alex is all fragility with a front of strength. He’s exactly how his heart defines him: strong, gentle and unstoppable. His nature is bonfire, beaming like a beacon, burning like a wildfire out of control. He cares, and hopes, and dreams that, with his earnest work and efforts, grain by grain, the gray would give way to the dream and the sands of the world would shine bright. With Alex, the author has created such a vibrantly human protagonist whose perspective you can understand and whose candor, thoughtful strength, humanity, and resolve you can admire. His journey snagged at my heart and left me feeling like a witness to a very remarkable moment in his life, overwhelmed with gratitude for sharing it.
I also love how the author handles with great aplomb a bisexual character who realizes, accepts and embraces his bisexuality in his twenties, just as well as they handle the burgeoning romance between him and Henry. Even side characters here are just as carefully conceived—I love Alex’s crew so much and there’s not much I wouldn’t give for a spinoff series centering each one of them.
Red, White & Royal Blue also succeeds with brilliance and verve in addressing issues about racism, gender, responsibility, and ethics. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the cheeky undercurrent flowing through the novel—the arched eyebrow, the bold and confiding voice. It was all so glorious. As glorious at the fact that this book, at its heart, is a joyful celebration of the people who work so hard to carve out a place for themselves in a world that gives them freely to everyone else—those who are told that their dreams do not match where they came from and would therefore never be realized, those who love and believe in spite of odium and condemnation. As a queer Muslim immigrant, this meant so much more than words could possibly convey.
Thinking about history makes me wonder how I’ll fit into it one day, I guess. And you too. I kinda wish people still wrote like that. History, huh? Bet we could make some.
This is genuinely one of the best—if not the best—romance novels that I’ve ever read. I know I keep saying love is fake, but reading this book melted my cold dead heart. I’m a believer again! And you know what, although I have always been incapable of choosing a “favorite book,” I now know that if I had to be stuck on a desert island, with only one book to bring with me, it would definitely be this one.