Published by St. Martin's Griffin on May 14, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Political, Romance
A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends...
First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.
The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.
As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?
There’s a charming story buried in this book, but you really have to look for it.
Alex Claremont-Diaz is the First Son. His mother is the first female president of the United States, and she’s a force. We don’t see a lot of her, but what we did see, I loved.
Henry George Edward James Fox-Mountchristen-Windsor is the Prince of England (which I don’t think is an actual title). They’ve been archnemeses since they met, and circumstances have now forced them to pretend to be BFF. Which, naturally, leads to shenanigans of the best kind.
The actual story is delightful. Enemies-to-lovers is one of my favorite tropes, and this was a fantastic example of the it done well. Alex and Henry can’t stand each other. Really, they can’t. Just ask them. They’ll each tell you that the other is full of cooties. Or something. But they definitely hate each other.
Then they’re forced to pretend they’re friends in order to avoid an international scandal, and the more time they spend together, the more they start to realize that maybe they don’t really hate each other.
Like I said, this part of the story is really charming. Watching the two of them dance around each other, neither really willing to admit that the feelings they have for each other are changing. It’s especially confusing for Alex, who has always identified as straight. I mean, except for that tiny issue of he and his best friend in high school making out all the time. But other than that, he’s always identified as straight. So he’s a little confused by his feelings for Henry, but the longer they go on, the more he realizes that he can’t deny them.
The problems I had with this book didn’t have anything to do with the actual romance between Alex and Henry. I had some issues with the writing – it got repetitive – Alex and Henry finding ways to be together, making out, having sex, sneaking around. Over and over and over.
The sneaking around is an issue. This is the son of the first female president of the United States and a prince. One of the highest-profile members of the British royal family, due to his title, looks, and perpetually single status. And they just… sneak around? They each usually have 1 or 2 bodyguards with them, and that’s it? And they’re able to sneak around as much as they do? Without paparazzi, or even just a person standing around with a phone to snap a picture? Yes, they go to some private functions, but they also manage to sneak away for a quickie during Wimbledon. How in the world does that happen?
The other issue I have is the political world McQuiston built. It’s a strange mix of our real-world politics and politicians, and her own invented world. Donald Trump is never mentioned, so (hopefully) doesn’t exist, but the Clintons are there. But no mention of Hillary’s campaign, so I don’t know if that happened. Some of the bigger politicians in our world appear here, but others don’t, so I wasn’t really able to get a grasp on how it was all laid out and how we had gotten to the point where America was willing to elect a divorced, Democratic, single mom from Texas to the presidency.
And as much as I appreciated the ending on a storytelling level, it was nearly impossible to believe in, considering our actual real-world political climate. The HEA we were presented with had no basis in reality, which the rest of the story was supposed to have. Mitch McConnell exists in the Red, White, and Royal Blue world – that is not a world wherein the president’s son and a male member of the royal family can be caught having an affair, and everything works out fine and the world learns an important lesson about tolerance. It was too difficult to figure out exactly where this book fits in. In her author’s note at the end, McQuiston refers to it as a parallel universe, but it’s not quite that, either.
I’m interested to see what Casey McQuiston does next. I hope her editor helps her cut down on some of the repetition and tightens the story up. The writing was good, and she’s clearly a good storyteller. This one was just a little too convoluted.