I thought I’d start out this blog with a book I’ve literally just finished, and (spoiler alert) absolutely loved to pieces. I read this over the space of a gloriously sunny British weekend in the park, and to say I had a smile plastered on my face on Sunday evening after finishing this book is a bit of an understatement. Good quality LGBTQ+ romance novels have gone from almost cult followings to mainstream quite quickly over the past couple of years, and who am I to complain? More and more make it to the mainstream stage, an audience for all if you like, and I’m just glad new and existing authors are portraying more unique/diverse love stories than ever before. They’re just as sickly sweet as heterosexual counterparts (mostly); so everyone can have their happy ending.
Quick note, to quell something straight off the bat, not everything I review won’t be romance…. but who doesn’t love a feel-good “switch off from the world for a few hours” love story to delve into once in a while? Don’t judge me! 😉
Red, White & Royal Blue is an extremely soap opera-esque, unlikely love story between the President of the United States son Alex and Prince of England, Henry. Now, I’m not going to lie, and I know what you’re thinking.. I really wasn’t sold on this concept at all as well. Believability and relatability are perhaps the most important selling points of romance novels – or maybe I’m just a soppy old romantic? Anywho, after the first few pages, CM does an outstanding job with characterisation, particularly with the so called “FCOTUS” in the first part of the book. There’s plenty of time dedicated to this before Casey kicks the plot into high gear, which definitely helps as we know more of their personalities towards the later part of the book.
Henry and Alex really don’t like each other – and after an incident at Henry’s brothers wedding, the two are forced by their families into a friendship which gives us some of the best humour of the book. “I’m going to throw up on you” Alex says as they pose politely for photos; “I’d rather be waterboarded” Henry replies smiling at the camera. This scene, in my opinion begins the best part of the book. As I’ve said before, it’s important for the characters to relate to the reader, so we can root/laugh/cry/sob for and with them. The relationship between Alex and Henry really shines through from this point onwards – even when they don’t like each other. The slowly blossoming friendship-come-relationship feels happy, poignant and most of all.. natural. Even from their roles on the international stage, they still manage to have issues and problems which can plague any relationship – just with the added threats of the media, and perhaps an unfair portrayal of the senior members of the Royal Family (even if they are fictional).
Side stories are weaved effortlessly into the narrative of the novel and compliment the characters well. In the US it’s presidential election season, and this provides a good background throughout of Alex’s relationship with his family, albeit with a slight political scandal which plagues the election.
As the book continues at break-neck speed, it becomes apparent that this book is about more than love. It’s about having dreams, and following your heart. It’s about reminding you wherever you are, you can change your course and do what you want to do. “Sometimes you just jump and hope it’s not a cliff” Casey writes, and it’s knowing how big the jump you take, you have people there to support you no matter what. It’s a great message to weave into a book aimed at queer love.
Although I’ve just explained exactly why I love this book (in case you hadn’t already guessed that yet) – I did have 2 minor criticisms. While the characterisation was generally good, some characters were generally underutilised within the narrative – which if used more could really have added even more context to some of the novels sequences. For example, the POTUS herself is barely featured within the first half of the book. I completely understand the believability she works long hours etc, however when she’s faced with the inevitable crisis with Alex later in the novel, something falls just a little flat. We haven’t seen her parental relationship with Alex and June in this depth yet, so it feels almost forced. The other criticism is the ending. It’s not bad by any means, just don’t expect a fanfare.
That’s about it! Overall it’s a glorious example of LGBTQ+ romance done right, even if the sypnosis is a tiny bit ludicrous. Sweet and sappy, there’s plenty of monologues to make you weep happy tears. If you have the option though, don’t do it in public like I did, with someone politely offering me a tissue and allergy tablet. Curse you Casey for a mortifying experience! Would I consider this a literary classic? Not really to be honest. A irresistible feel good book I’ll probably read again in a few months? Absolutely!
“History, huh? Bet we could make some”
(The 3 books on the end is a metaphorical star – just go with it. I ran out of solid colours to figure out a 5th!)
EDIT: Now replaced with an updated 5 star graphic! 🙂