Review + Excerpt: Red, White & Royal Blue - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry 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?

Book Type:

Romantic Comedy

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Red, White & Royal Blue
By Casey McQuiston

Review + Excerpt: Red, White & Royal Blue

Casey McQuiston reboots the royal romance with a joyful, clever, quick-witted and totally irresistible debut. It’s an enemies-to-lovers romance, and a forbidden one to boot.

We meet first son Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of President Ellen Claremont. Intelligent, ambitious and charming, Alex plans to follow in his mother’s political footsteps. Life is great, except a trip abroad has him dreading an encounter with his rival—Henry, Prince of Wales. A heated—and very public—exchange at a wedding, sends their handlers atwitter and in full damage control mode. Now, Alex must pretend to be BFFs for the good of the Crown, and his mother’s re-election campaign.

Henry seems to be everything Alex isn’t. He’s cool and collected… the perfect Prince Charming. But while they nurture their bromance in front of clicking cameras, Alex begins to realize there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to the handsome prince.

Soon enough, hate turns into something entirely different, as the two fall into a secret relationship which could propel two nations into chaos. After all, there’s no future for the First Son and the Prince of Wales—it’s a wild impossibility… right?

Alex and Henry’s relationship is a beautiful thing to witness. Their verbal sparring, their truths and struggles, their intense longing for the other. Their feelings come to life poignantly not only through late-night, whispered conversations, but also through poetically written emails in which they bare heart and soul.

The emotional rawness and authenticity of the novel is buoyed by whip-smart wit and rapid-fire banter. There’s an addictive effervescence to it all, making the story impossible not to devour.

This is one of those books that is a pure joy to experience—those that remind you why you love to reach so much in the first place. It’s a gem of a love story, fresh and fun, and deserves all the gushing it will undoubtedly receive.

“That’s the choice. I love him, with all that, because of all that. On purpose. I love him on purpose.”

Alex has never told—will never tell—anyone, but he saw Henry for the first time when he was twelve years old. He only ever reflects upon it when he’s drunk.

He’s sure he saw his face in the news before then, but that was the first time he really saw him. June had just turned fifteen and used part of her birthday money to buy an issue of a blindingly colorful teen magazine. Her love of trashy tabloids started early. In the center of the magazine were miniature posters you could rip out and stick up in your locker. If you were careful and pried up the staples with your fingernails, you could get them out without tearing them. One of them, right in the middle, was a picture of a boy.

He had thick, tawny hair and big blue eyes, a warm smile, and a cricket bat over one shoulder. It must have been a candid, because there was a happy, sun-bright confidence to him that couldn’t be posed. On the bottom corner of the page in pink and blue letters: prince henry.

Alex still doesn’t really know what kept drawing him back, only that he would sneak into June’s room and find the page and touch his fingertips to the boy’s hair, as if he could somehow feel its texture if he imagined it hard enough. The more his parents climbed the political ranks, the more he started to reckon with the fact that soon the world would know who he was. Then, sometimes, he’d think of the picture, and try to harness Prince Henry’s easy confidence.

(He also thought about prying up the staples with his fingers and taking the picture out and keeping it in his room, but he never did. His fingernails were too stubby; they weren’t made for it like June’s, like a girl’s.)

But then came first time he met Henry—the first cool, detached words Henry said to him—and Alex guessed he had it all wrong, that the pretty, flung-open boy from the picture wasn’t real. The real Henry is beautiful, distant, boring, and closed. This person the tabloids keep comparing him to, that he compares himself to, thinks he’s better than Alex and everyone like him. Alex can’t believe he ever wanted to be anything like him.

Alex keeps drinking, keeps alternating between thinking about it and forcing himself not to think about it, disappears into the crowd and dances with pretty European heiresses about it.

He’s pirouetting away from one when he catches sight of a lone figure, hovering near the cake and the champagne fountain. It’s Prince Henry yet again, glass in hand, watching Prince Philip and his bride spinning on the ballroom floor. He looks politely half-interested in that obnoxious way of his, like he has somewhere else to be. And Alex can’t resist the urge to call his bluff.

He picks his way through the crowd, grabbing a glass of wine off a passing tray and downing half of it.

“When you have one of these,” Alex says, sidling up to him, “you should do two champagne fountains instead of one. Really embarrassing to be at a wedding with only one champagne fountain.”

“Alex,” Henry says in that maddeningly posh accent. Up close, the waistcoat under his suit jacket is a lush gold and has about a million buttons on it. It’s horrible. “I wondered if I’d have the pleasure.”

“Looks like it’s your lucky day,” Alex says, smiling.

“Truly a momentous occasion,” Henry agrees. His own smile is bright white and immaculate, made to be printed on money.

The most annoying thing of all is Alex knows Henry hates him too—he must, they’re naturally mutual antagonists—but he refuses to outright act like it. Alex is intimately aware politics involves a lot of making nice with people you loathe, but he wishes that once, just once, Henry would act like an actual human and not some polished little wind-up toy sold in a palace gift shop.

He’s too perfect. Alex wants to poke it.

“Do you ever get tired,” Alex says, “of pretending you’re above all this?”

Henry turns and stares at him. “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”

“I mean, you’re out here, getting the photographers to chase you, swanning around like you hate the attention, which you clearly don’t since you’re dancing with my sister, of all people,” Alex says. “You act like you’re too important to be anywhere, ever. Doesn’t that get exhausting?”

“I’m . . . a bit more complicated than that,” Henry attempts.

“Ha.”

“Oh,” Henry says, narrowing his eyes. “You’re drunk.”

“I’m just saying,” Alex says, resting an overly friendly elbow on Henry’s shoulder, which isn’t as easy as he’d like it to be since Henry has about four infuriating inches of height on him. “You could try to act like you’re having fun. Occasionally.”

Henry laughs ruefully. “I believe perhaps you should consider switching to water, Alex.”

“Should I?” Alex says. He pushes aside the thought that maybe the wine is what gave him the nerve to stomp over to Henry in the first place and makes his eyes as coy and angelic as he knows how. “Am I offending you? Sorry I’m not obsessed with you like everyone else. I know that must be confusing for you.”

“Do you know what?” Henry says. “I think you are.”

Alex’s mouth drops open, while the corner of Henry’s turns smug and almost a little mean.

“Only a thought,” Henry says, tone polite. “Have you ever noticed I have never once approached you and have been exhaustively civil every time we’ve spoken? Yet here you are, seeking me out again.” He takes a sip of his champagne. “Simply an observation.”

“What? I’m not—” Alex stammers. “You’re the—”

“Have a lovely evening, Alex,” Henry says tersely, and turns to walk off.

It drives Alex nuts, that Henry thinks he gets to have the last word, and without thinking, he reaches out and pulls Henry’s shoulder back.

And then Henry turns, suddenly, and almost does push Alex off him this time, and for a brief spark of a moment, Alex is impressed at the glint in his eyes, the abrupt burst of an actual personality.

The next thing he knows, he’s tripping over his own foot and stumbling backwards into the table nearest him. He notices too late that the table is, to his horror, the one bearing the massive eight-tier wedding cake, and he grabs for Henry’s arm to catch himself, but all this does is throw both of them off-balance and send them crashing together into the cake stand.

He watches, as if in slow motion, as the cake leans, teeters, shudders, and finally tips. There’s absolutely nothing he can do to stop it. It comes crashing down onto the floor in an avalanche of white buttercream, some kind of sugary $75,000 nightmare.

The room goes heart-stoppingly silent as momentum carries him and Henry through the fall and down, down onto the wreckage of the cake on the ornate carpet, Henry’s sleeve still clutched in Alex’s fist. Henry’s glass of champagne has spilled all over both of them and shattered, and out of the corner of his eye, Alex can see a cut across the top of Henry’s cheekbone beginning to bleed.

For a second, all he can think as he stares up at the ceiling while covered in frosting and champagne is that at least Henry’s dance with June won’t be the biggest story to come out of the royal wedding.

His next thought is that his mother is going to murder him in cold blood.

Beside him, he hears Henry mutter slowly, “Oh my fucking Christ.”

He registers dimly that it’s the first time he’s ever heard the prince swear, before the flash from someone’s camera goes off.

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