Red, White, & Royal Blue had been on my radar for a few months now, but when I picked up a copy at the bookstore and flipped through the first few pages, I thought it was a case of misplaced hype. Alex acts like such a dick to Henry in the first chapter, for seemingly no good reason, that I was turned off by the whole dynamic. Not to mention, the adult son of the president should know better than to get drunk at an important diplomatic event and destroy a prince’s wedding cake. Major cringe factor.
Nevertheless, I pushed through my initial distaste for the characters, based on all the 5-star ratings. I’m glad that my opinions of Alex and Henry improved greatly, and I quickly got pulled into the main part of the story. I won’t bother to recap too much, since most people on this site have probably read it by now. It was a very cute premise, with nicely distinct characters. I also liked that the secondary characters, especially Nora, June, and Bea, were awesome and supportive in their own ways.
What I liked: The Romance
I was very impressed with the way the author crafted the communication between the two MCs, from the initial funny and snarky text messages to the deeply moving emails. Too often authors choose to punt with emotional letters and dialogue, telling us that the emotion is present without bothering to create the feelings through their actual writing. I am impressed that a first-time author like McQuiston was able to craft the deeply romantic passages in the emails between Alex and Henry when so many experienced authors miss the mark.
What I didn’t: The Politics
I understand that a large degree of alternate history is required for the premise, but parts were a little too on the nose in light of our current political dumpster fire. Red, White, & Royal Blue is effectively liberal fan fiction, albeit very well-crafted fan fiction, but in a lot of ways, reading about an alternative 2020 presidency and election just hammers home the reality. That cut into the escapism factor and often jolted me out of my immersion in the book.
I still really enjoyed the book, I just wish it didn’t make me think about the real world so much as I was reading it.