Red, white & royal blue A novel

Casey McQuiston

Book - 2019

After an international incident affects U.S. and British relations, the president's son Alex and Prince Henry must pretend to be best friends, but as they spend time together, the two begin a secret romance that could derail a presidential campaign.

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FICTION/McQuiston, Casey
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1st Floor FICTION/McQuiston, Casey Due Jul 6, 2024
1st Floor FICTION/McQuiston, Casey Due Jul 12, 2024
New York : Wednesday Books 2019.
Main Author
Casey McQuiston (author)
First edition
Physical Description
432 pages
Contents unavailable.
Review by New York Times Review

THE FANTASY OF a romance novel isn't always in the love story. Some of the most powerful escapism comes from setting real, flawed characters in fantastical worlds. Whether the departures from our grubby reality are minor or profound, these imaginary worlds offer hopeful possibilities - for love to flourish, for injustice to be righted, for beauty to persevere. Or sometimes they're just a lovely place to spend a few hours while you read. Just as fantastical as a magical realm of otherworldly beasts and shadowdwelling assassins is an alternate-timeline America where the president is a brilliant woman and the hottest tabloid fodder is a true and charming love. Whether you want modern-day royalty, supernatural powers or just supernaturally competent women running the show, here are four new romances that will sweep you away. The white house is hardly the home of whimsical fantasy these days, so the Washington of Casey McQuiston's exquisite debut, RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE (St. Martin's Griffin, paper, $16.99), strikes a bittersweet chord. But even the most believable political machinations pale next to the captivating and endearing young man at this novel's heart: Alex Claremont-Diaz, President Ellen Claremont's son. Alex is brash, neurotic and good-hearted, prone to putting his foot in his mouth - which he does, and then some, when an encounter with Prince Henry of England, whom he has always disliked, ends in a shove and a toppled wedding cake. For damage control, Alex is ordered to make nice with the prince, putting up the pretext of a longrunning friendship. The begrudging P.R. performance slips quickly into friendship and then, well, Alex discovers that the force with which Henry has always agitated him didn't stem from animosity at all. McQuiston masterfully navigates two very different political realms, conjuring the quick-fire decision-making of a progressive White House and the iron-grip traditionalism of Buckingham Palace with equal skill. That would be impressive enough, but it's nothing compared to the consuming vividness of Alex and Henry. They shine as individuals - it's especially lovely to watch Henry emerge from behind his royal facade - and when they fall in love, the intensity of their infatuation, youthful but not immature, is intoxicating. They're perfect for each other, but hardly perfect; McQuiston manages to make her characters believably, truly flawed while still utterly lovable. The stakes are high, too, personally and politically, for every misstep and mistake. And they make plenty, especially Alex. It's hard to watch him fall in love with Henry without falling in love a bit yourself - with them, and with this brilliant, wonderful book. IN HER RELUCTANT royals series, Alyssa Cole has invented an immersive network of fictional kingdoms set within our own reality. In the third and final book of the series, A PRINCE ON PAPER (Avon, paper, $7.99), Cole brings US to the tiny European kingdom of Liechtienbourg, where we finally get to spend a full book with Johan Maximillian von Braustein, stepson of the king of Liechtienbourg and a notorious tabloid-ready playboy. Johan had intriguing cameos in the first two books of the series, first as a rake and then as a man suspiciously better than he seemed. Here the charming, funny and fallible Johan thoroughly steals the show as he falls in love with Nya, a woman trying to break free from her constricted upbringing. The plot starts out looking like enemies-to-lovers, but quickly takes a turn into fake engagement territory, bringing Nya from her native Thesolo - another invented kingdom, this one in Africa, where Nya's father sits in jail for various treasonous crimes - to Liechtienbourg with Johan. Nya, sheltered and sweet, is a clear foil to the rakish Johan. (The distinction between "nice" and "good" is a running theme.) The flawed hero/redeeming heroine is a common dynamic in historical romance, which Cole's contemporary series, with its focus on royalty, is obviously in conversation with. While Johan, though not a scoundrel, gets to make mistakes, stumble and almost fall, Nya is almost too good - and with so much of the real world infused into the setting, her near-perfection jangles. She grew up overly protected and friendless, yet she's perceptive of the thoughts, feelings and motivations of everyone around her. In fact, aside from villains like Nya's father, Cole's characters all have high emotional intelligence. That's part of the fantasy of this world, but it does something strange to conflict - there's plenty of it, but also sort of none. "A Prince on Paper" is fun, but it isn't fluff, and Nya and Johan face weighty obstacles, including some on an international scale. Cole's royal realm feels rich and realistic, and the romance develops with sincerity. I didn't want to see Nya and Johan suffer, but perhaps to struggle just a bit more. There is plenty of both suffering and struggle in Maxym M. Martineau's KINGDOM OF EXILES (Sourcebooks Casablanca, paper, $7.99), and plenty of fantasy, too - not just in terms of escapism, but in the genre sense of magic and curses and a vaguely medieval aesthetic. Our main characters are Leena and Noc. She's a Charmer, capable of taming magical beasts, exiled from her brethren for crimes she didn't commit. As if exile is not enough, someone from the Charmers Council has ordered a hit on her. The assassin comes from Crúor, a guild of undead killers who walk in shadows and must deliver on their contracts or forfeit their own lives. When Leena bests him by using one of her beasts, she ends up meeting Noc, leader of Crúor and an exile himself. She strikes a deal with him: her life for four magical beasts. From there, she and Noc and three of his surprisingly winsome compatriots embark on a multipurpose quest - Leena needs to tame a mythical Myad to prove her worth to the Charmers Council; Noc bears a curse that he wants to remove. The journey is entrancing if episodic as Leena and her escorts travel through the realm, stopping periodically for a taming when she catches wind of a beast. (The book is marketed as " Assassin's Creed' meets 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,"' but it's much more like dark Pokemon, and that isn't a dig.) Of course, at the same time, Noc and Leena are falling in love. The romance is decidedly the primary plot of the novel - it's the only arc that gets fully resolved - though it feels a bit perfunctory next to Leena's gleaming menagerie and the mysteries of Noe's past and the Charmers' future. But a bit of wonky balance can be forgiven in such a lush and sweeping swords-and-sorcery romance. For a less fantastical setting for love, how about... the cutthroat back-room dealings of Silicon Valley? Or the joys of online dating? What if we add the neurological aftereffects of a career in the N.F.L. - are you swooning yet? Perhaps only in the masterful hands of Alisha Rai could this be a recipe for top-notch romance (not to mention the start of a new series). In the forthcoming novel THE RIGHT SWIPE (Avon, paper, $14.99), Rhiannon Hunter is the C.E.O. of Crush, a dating app she founded after being forced out of Swype, a "dating app built around Hot-or-Not bro culture." Since then, she's been building her company (a tech firm with a staff that's 80 percent women, btw) and protecting her heart, using her own app under a pseudonym for one-night stands. For the last three months Rhiannon's been haunted by one of those evenings. She thought she and her date had shared a real connection, but she never heard from him again. Then that date, a former N.F.L. linebacker named Samson Lima, appears at an industry conference. He turns out to be the new spokesman for Matchmaker, Crush's old-school, compatibility questionnaire-based competition, which Rhiannon has her eye on to buy. The plot from there would sound convoluted if summarized, but in practice it feels propulsive and complex, with Rhiannon and Samson navigating a web of personal, familial and professional challenges to figure out what they want from their own lives and from each other. Much rests on their memories of the strong chemistry they discovered in their first night together. At first this feels like a bit of an emotional shortcut, but the real depth - and much of the book's joy - comes from the natural growth of their mutual trust and connection. It's especially intriguing to watch Rhiannon open up. She's prickly and often emotionally closed-off, but vulnerable, too. She slips between stereotypes, always more complicated than she seems. Samson isn't simple, but he's steady, just what Rhiannon needs. JAIME green is the Book Review's romance columnist. Her first book, about the science and Sciencefiction of life beyond Earth, is forthcoming.

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [June 2, 2019]
Review by Booklist Review

As the First Son, Alex Claremont-Diaz cannot totally avoid his archnemesis, the uptight Prince Henry. When his (booze-fueled) anger nearly causes an international incident at the royal wedding, Alex and Henry are required to participate in a publicity tour to prove to the world that they are besties, which they definitely are not. Henry is way too perfect and handsome, and soon, Alex realizes he doesn't actually hate Henry, and the feeling is mutual. McQuiston's debut is for readers who love romantic comedies and Pod Save America: Alex is a history nerd and policy wonk, and his and Henry's emails are full of equal parts dirty talk and literary quotes. There is a villain (and, yes, he is a Republican), but he is barely given page time in favor of Alex's relationships with his tight inner circle, with his own political aspirations, and his intense affair with Henry. In between sweet and steamy love scenes, Red, White & Royal Blue allows readers to imagine a world where coming out involves no self-loathing; where fan fiction and activist Twitter do actual good; and a diverse, liberal White House wins elections. This Blue Wave fantasy could be the feel-good book of the summer.--Susan Maguire Copyright 2019 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

McQuiston's outstanding debut pivots on an inspired rom-com premise: What if Alex Claremont-Diaz, the half-Mexican son of the first female president of the United States, fell in love with Prince Henry, England's heir? The two heartthrobs are arch-nemeses at first. After a scandalous mishap at a wedding, however, they are required to pretend to be best friends lest their enmity spark an international incident. Not surprisingly, their hate turns into a bromance. When Henry kisses Alex, the First Son goes into a mild gay panic, but their snide texts soon become gushy emails ending with romantic quotes. The scions also contrive ways of being together at Wimbledon, in Texas, and at a West Hollywood karaoke bar to steal kisses or have secretive sex. Of course, their romance will eventually be discovered and leaked to the press during the president's heated reelection campaign. The impossible relationship between Alex and Henry is portrayed with quick wit and clever plotting. The drama, which involves political rivals, possible betrayals, and even a meeting with the queen, is both irresistible and delicious. Readers will be eager to see more from McQuiston after this extremely promising start. Agent: Sara Megibow, KT Literary. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

DEBUT Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of U.S. President Ellen Claremont, doesn't consider Prince Henry of Wales his arch-nemesis, not exactly. It's just that Henry is a generic blank canvas with zero personality and a truly unfair resemblance to a real-life Prince Charming, and Alex can't help despising every bland thing about him. After the two have a very public confrontation at a royal wedding, damage control is required from both sides of the pond. In order to maintain friendly international relations, Alex is forced to pretend to be longtime best friends with Henry. When the two actually spend time together, however, they learn that there is much more to the other than they'd realized. As a contentious reelection campaign for Ellen looms on the horizon, Alex and Henry tentatively forge a genuine friendship, which grows into more, until reaching an inevitable boiling point. VERDICT With a diverse cast of characters, quick-witted dialog, and a complicated relationship between two young people with the eyes of the world watching their every move, McQuiston's debut is an irresistible, hopeful, and sexy romantic comedy that considers real questions about personal and public responsibility. For fans of Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan's The Royal We, as well as Alyssa Cole's "Reluctant Royals" series.--Jessica Moore, Milwaukee P.L.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

The much-loved royal romance genre gets a fun and refreshing update in McQuiston's debut.Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of the American President Ellen Claremont, knows one thing for sure: He hates Henry, the British prince to whom he is always compared. He lives for their verbal sparring matches, but when one of their fights at a royal wedding goes a bit too far, they end up falling into a wedding cake and making tabloid headlines. An international scandal could ruin Alex's mother's chances for re-election, so it's time for damage control. The plan? Alex and Henry must pretend to be best friends, giving the tabloids pictures of their bromance and neutralizing the threat to Ellen's presidency. But after a few photo ops with Henry, Alex starts to realize that the passionate anger he feels toward him might be a cover for regular old passion. There are, naturally, a million roadblocks between their first kiss and their happily-ever-afterhow can American political royalty and actual British royalty ever be together? How can they navigate being open about their sexualities (Alex is bisexual; Henry is gay) in their very public and very scrutinized roles? Alex and Henry must decide if they'll risk their futures, their families, and their careers to take a chance on happiness. Although the story's premise might be a fantasyit takes place in a world in which a divorced-mom Texan Democrat won the 2016 electionthe emotions are all real. The love affair between Alex and Henry is intense and romantic, made all the more so by the inclusion of their poetic emails that manage to be both funny and steamy. McQuiston's strength is in dialogue; her characters speak in hilarious rapid-fire bursts with plenty of "likes," "ums," creative punctuation, and pop-culture references, sounding like smarter, funnier versions of real people. Although Alex and Henry's relationship is the heart of the story, their friends and family members are all rich, well-drawn characters, and their respective worlds feel both realistic and larger-than-life.A clever, romantic, sexy love story. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.