This was such a fun, lovely time. I was expecting some fluff and some ‘falling in love with a priiiince’ fantasy indulgence, and some warmhearted sweetness (and there was all of that in here, as well), but I wasn’t expecting it to be so smart and practical and irreverent. I don’t often laugh out loud, but this book had me cackling at points. It just vibrated on the right frequency for me, and I think admirably succeeds in its goal of being an optimistic balm for the soul. (The author’s note explains that McQuiston originally started writing it before the 2016 election as a fun alternate universe bit of fluff, but afterwards she knew it needed to have a different tone, and it took her a while to find it.)
So, the premise is just the tip, but it’s a good premise. The First Son of the United States (the son of the first female president) accidentally falls in love with a Prince of England after they cause an international scandal by fighting at a Royal Wedding and destroying a $75k wedding cake. Their PR teams want them to pretend to be close personal friends in a series of staged photo ops, but of course what actually happens is that they become actual friends, and then more. And *more*, if they’re found out, would be even more of a public relations nightmare for both the White House and the Royal Family, if their affair ever gets out. But at the heart of all that is just two young men who are finding for the first time that they may have found their person.
What impressed me the most about this novel—completely aside from how enjoyable I found it and how it pushed all my buttons and made me laugh and come to love all the characters—was how practical it was. That seems like such a weird thing to say about a romance novel, but it really gets me how much I loved this aspect of this book. All of that love stuff and fluff and happiness is grounded in this great sense of Alex (the First Son) and his family actually living and WORKING in the White House. Alex is a policy nerd, he really knows his stuff. And the book doesn’t shy away from the political situation of the United States, balancing between a realistic view, and a hopeful one in a way that I thought was really skillful. We don’t get as much of a view into the Royal Family because Henry isn’t a POV character, but seeing him through Alex’s eyes is pretty great, but what is there seemed pretty spot on (it’s a different queen on the throne, Queen Mary not Elizabeth).
It was almost immediately clear upon starting this that McQuiston is *smart*. And the book does the thing that I love which is to put like, dick jokes, right alongside beautiful quotes from obscure pieces of history and literature. In my experience, a liking for the profane does not preclude a liking of the erudite, and you so rarely get a story that can really do both. This book features an extended meditation on the statue ‘Samson Slaying a Philistine’ by Giambologna, and then turns right around and has one character lovingly telling another that they are an insatiable sex demon. This is just like real life!!
Highly recommend this one. Will definitely be following McQuiston in whatever she publishes next.
CBR Bingo: Rainbow Flag