In anticipation of Friday’s release of the film adaptation of Red, White, & Royal Blue on Prime Video, today I will be reviewing Casey McQuiston’s 2019 novel—a romance which continues to fly off the shelves four years after its initial release.
The story of Red, White, & Royal Blue follows the secret relationship which blooms between the son of the President of the United States and the Prince of England. Though I would characterize the novel as light-hearted at times, it also does leave space for drama. Casey McQuiston does not write the relationship between their leads to be one that falls perfectly into place. They grapple with the implications of a queer relationship between two high-profile political players, while never allowing the plot to veer towards tragedy.
Though never picking it up until this month, I have heard the praises of Red, White, & Royal Blue for the past few years. The buzz around the novel has been loud and incessant since its publication in 2019, when it debuted on the New York Times Paper Trade Fiction bestseller list as well as won Best Debut Novel and Best Romance Novel in the 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards. Though critically recognized, most readers likely were introduced to Red, White, & Royal Blue through BookTok—the community of booklovers on TikTok who offer recommendations and video reviews through the app’s succinct, eye-grabbing format. Red, White, & Royal Blue tore through BookTok like wildfire, and the novel was quickly offered a film deal the same year of its publication. Casey’s wild success in their very first novel is of course due to their talent, but also the time in which their queer romance novel debuted. Red, White, & Royal Blue advertised a joyous, queer love story just as the COVID-19 pandemic descended. Though other BookTok favorites like They Both Die at the End or A Court of Thorns and Roses also dominated the app, neither of them were able to boast a non-doomed queer relationship.
Casey offers queer readers their own romantic comedy—not just the principles of a straight romance bent slightly.
In writing Red, White, & Royal Blue, Casey offered queer readers their own romantic comedy—not just the principles of a straight romance bent slightly to accommodate two men in a relationship. The novel compassionately explores the evolving identities of its characters, as well as what those identities mean for their public image and safety. Additionally, the main characters exercise a significant amount of autonomy in their situation, either through small acts of rebellion or legitimate systemic change.
My favorite inclusion of Casey’s was their use of letters that queer couples throughout history have sent to each other. Though the novel does feel unreal at times—it is so optimistic while us readers have gone through a devastating few years when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights—these quotes ground it in reality. They remind the audience that though the relationship at the heart of the story may feel like fiction, really, it isn’t. It’s already happened thousands of times over, just in the dark.
I was so enamored with the novel perhaps because I had forgotten a book lover’s most important truth: fiction can be…fun?
As soon as I began Red, White, & Royal Blue, I knew exactly what sort of book it would be. The pink cover decorated with two smiling, handsome men promised me fluff, and a calming (if unchallenging) read. Though fluffy at times, the book didn’t quite calm me; I ripped right through it. The story immediately grabbed hold of my attention, and I found myself not only sneaking pages of it before bed or on the train, but standing at the register at work (sorry to all those customers I ignored while they were just trying to get their morning coffee). I was so enamored with the novel perhaps because I had forgotten a book lover’s most important truth: fiction can be…fun?
Though I read constantly because I love it and it fulfills me, I probably have not had fun reading a book in ages. Moved, yes, enthralled, sure, but not that “reading a chapter while giggling and rolling my eyes” fun.
Casey McQuiston’s Red, White, & Royal Blue is a well-written, frolic of a novel. Though thicker than some romances, the chapters fly by, and it is worth the time of anyone looking for an escape this week. Since the movie is yet to be released, I can’t speak to it yet, but I myself will be streaming it Friday in the hopes of reliving the magic of the book.
© Reese Alexander (8/10/23) FF2 Media
LEARN MORE/DO MORE
Order Red, White, & Royal Blue here.
Watch the trailer for Red, White, & Royal Blue here.
Visit Casey McQuiston’s Wikipedia page here.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured image: Reese Alexander holding Red, White, & Royal Blue.