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BOOK REVIEW:

Red, White & Royal Blue

Alex Claremont-Diaz is the 21-year-old First Son Of The United States (FSOTUS). He has lived in the White House with his older sister, June (FDOTUS) for the last three years, during his mother’s first term in office. He is a media darling, being continually followed, photographed and dissected by the press. He, June, and Nora, the granddaughter of the Vice President, are referred to as “The White House Trio,” three ambitious and beautiful, young people of which the press and the American public cannot get their fill.

Alex is scheduled to attend the latest Royal Wedding in London, along with June and Nora. He hates these types of functions, but not nearly as much as he hates Prince Henry. His Royal Highness (HRH), Prince Henry, is the younger brother of Prince Phillip and Princess Beatrice and it is Phillip’s wedding that is being celebrated. Alex has argued for years that Henry is infuriatingly boring and “stuck-up” as well. He holds a long held grudge that has no signs of ever being diffused.

At the wedding, Alex confronts Henry after a bit too much champagne, ending in the two destroying the £75,000 wedding cake. This is a PR nightmare, especially since it happens as President Claremont is heading into a grueling re-election campaign. The solution: Alex and Henry are to become friends, best friends, inseparable companions, attending each other’s public functions and being seen spending personal time together as well (followed and documented by the press in both countries, of course).

The plan works brilliantly. Actually, it works better than anyone, including Alex and Henry, would have dreamed because the more time they spend together, the more they realize that neither is whom they thought the other to be. They have many shared experiences as young men that grew up in the glare of the spotlight and multiple flashing cameras. And then, one night in a quiet moment at a party, there is a kiss. And now there is another complication. While their quarreling was a political problem, it still sold papers and airtime. But the idea that FSOTUS and HRH might be “involved” romantically could cause an international incident and derail Alex’s Mother’s re-election campaign. So, their true feelings must again be hidden. But how long can two young men, who spend their entire lives in front of probing cameras, keep this a secret?

In her debut novel, Casey McQuiston takes an outrageous idea and runs with it full tilt. There is a lot to admire here: the nicely drawn and relatable characters; the inclusive and diverse cast; the exploration of how invasive and influential the press, specifically tabloid “journalism,” can be on the US political process (especially when what is being reported is more spectacle than news). But the true bottom line for Red, White & Royal Blue is that it is FUN! It is a page turning read because McQuiston has hit everything at the perfect pitch, from Alex’s long held grudge (that members of his family speculated long ago might be something other than dislike), to the ever-present bodyguards for both young men that know what is going on and facilitate the two young men’s liaisons as only they could, to the reaction of the old guard British royalty to the idea that someone may not want to live the life prescribed for them (keep the truth a secret and do what tradition requires of you).

Red, White & Royal Blue is a fairy tale, with TWO princes, and a very happy ending. While it is the PERFECT summer/beach read, it is also an enjoyable read for any time of the year!

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