Well, my first m/m romance that isn’t fanfiction.
Set during the year that protagonist Alex’s mother is campaigning for her 2nd term as president, the novel focuses on Alex’s relationship with Henry, Prince of Wales. They don’t get along and after an incident in which it appears that they have gotten into a fight, their families require them to pretend to be close friends. The relationship evolves from tense conversation to amusing banter and progresses from there.
I loved the banter between Alex and Henry (whose name I keep accidentally reading as Harry). As an example, during an e-mail exchange Alex signs off as “First Son of Your Former Colony,” and Henry addresses his response to “First Son of Off-Brand England”(p. 114). I also appreciated how Alex’s feelings develop and how much he cares even when he thinks the relationship is basically just friends with benefits. Neither Alex nor Henry sleep well, and at one point when Alex notices that Henry is looking “fresh-faced and relaxed,” Alex “feels calmer knowing somewhere in Wales, Henry got a decent night’s sleep” (p. 135). If I recall correctly, that’s the second reference to Alex’s concern about Henry’s sleep habits. It’s a nice way to show how much he cares, especially since occasionally the author has a tendency to tell rather than show.
Alex’s sister June and his best friend Nora are significant secondary characters, and they have a great dynamic between them all. I wouldn’t mind a sequel that focuses on June and Nora, as a couple (the possibility of which is alluded to) or just as friends.
RELATIVELY MILD SPOILERS AHEAD
Up until the last chapter or so, I was prepared to give this 5 stars, but to me the ending didn’t live up to the rest of the novel. Once Alex and Henry’s relationship is out in the open and they’ve worked through the scandal (this is a spoiler if you don’t realize romantic comedies like this always have happily ever after endings), the focus shifts too much to Alex’s mother’s re-election. The campaign was the backdrop for the novel and it makes sense there would be more of a focus on it as the election nears, but the interactions between Alex and Henry really seemed to be significantly reduced, and I missed it. Still, it’s an enjoyable read and I highly recommend it.