Rating: 5/5 stars & stripes
While I’d like to write more book reviews and publish one a month, this particular review might be less of a review and more of a ranting gush about how much I enjoyed reading, and then immediately re-reading, this book.
Since it’s the season of love (and I hope the song from Rent just popped in your head and sticks there for 525,600 minutes) I figured why not review a romance novel that I loved so much. Without further ado, I present you with my completely biased, non-spoiler love letter to Casey McQuiston’s Red, White, and Royal Blue.
Let’s talk politics
I read this book in late October of 2020… though I placed the request from my library during the summer. Coincidentally, I picked up the book when my roommates were dropping off their mail-in ballots for the 2020 Presidential Election––an election featured prominently in this 2019 released book.
While I stress ate over the fate of my nation, I had the opportunity to slip into a charming parallel reality––one where a female democrat won the 2016 election and also had happened to birth the quick-witted politically/sexually charged protagonist, Alex Claremont-Diaz.
The evidence of McQuiston’s research was evident, and while it brimmed with in-jokes about American politics and history, it never felt like a lecture. I got to step into the world of international affairs and was rooted to a smart, thoroughly developed main character. In the world McQuiston created, politics felt cool and planet earth seemed to shine a little brighter.
Also, since it was published in 2019…I enjoyed reading about a 2020 that wasn’t impacted by COVID, riots, and murder hornets.
Let’s talk dirty
This romance tucks itself nicely in the strongly emerging New Adult genre, which happens to be a genre I write in. So, for completely selfish reasons, I love seeing successful books that feature a protagonist in their early twenties who is still figuring out how the world works. I think the reason this book works so well is because of where the main characters are at in their lives.
But since it isn’t YA, we are given a bit more explicit content. Cough*Cough* Swearing and sex scenes.
It would be a severe stretch to call this book erotica, but when the steam is introduced, it sizzles. The romance McQuinston develops is not only extraordinarily believable, but it’s done with such great pacing that has your thirsting every step of the way. From the start, I fell in love with Alex and Henry, but their character development weaves within their romantic development so well that every brushstroke of innuendo or subtle piece of body language had my heart fluttering.
Let’s just talk
Voice is something that can make or break a novel. I would like to take a moment to give the novel’s voice a slow clap that builds up to a raucous standing ovation.
Henry’s too shocked to respond, mouth falling open slackly in a way that’s more surprise than invitation, and for a horrified moment Alex thinks he calculated all wrong, but then Henry’s kissing him back, and it’s everything.
Alex Claremont-Diaz is one unique flavor that captures your attention and forces you into the shoes of someone over-caffeinated, flying out of their depth with eyes wide open. It’s genuine, it’s relatable in an outrageous way, and it’s quippy enough to keep you turning pages.
Let’s laugh out loud
I know a book has captured my heart if it can do one of two things: make me cry or make me laugh. To be fair, I’m the type of person who delights in the folds and crinkles of the emotional spectrum, so I laugh and cry a lot… But I laughed a lot more than I had expected when reading this book.
The combination of Nora’s logical wit, Pez’s ingenious outbursts, Zahra’s death threats, and the clever turns of phrase between Henry and Alex, there’s no shortage of light hearted jokes to melt over. And boy was I a puddle of goo when reading this.
But similar to the steam heat of the romance, the humor in it was always tethered to the development of the characters. With a few well-placed depreciating jabs and in-jokes that build upon themselves, the laughs are well earned and have a ton of heart.
More things that made me love this book
(rapid fire edition)
- It made me miss the Obamas in office.
- The great turkey calamity (if you know, you know)
- Diversity & Inclusion for days!
- Subplots that I actually cared about
- Spicy emails
- Contemporary-set royal drama (yes, please)
- The story tied up nicely with a big blue ribbon on top and I still want to read more.
After I read this book, I kept it close until the very last day it was due back at the library. But then I immediately started reading it on Kindle Unlimited, and would break out the book when I had a free moment on my phone. Since then, I had purchased my own copy.
Red, White, & Royal Blue was my favorite read of 2020, and I read some epic stuff––including really gripping fantasy reads that are actually in my preferred genre. But this book––wonderful in all the right ways––beat all other reads for me and is one that I loved and learned from so much that I wrote my NaNoWriMo with it as my muse.
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