Red, White, and Royal Blue
When I first heard the premise for Casey McQuiston’s debut novel, Red, White & Royal Blue, I had no idea how to handle myself. A British prince falling in love with the president’s son? It sounded like something that would happen on television or a movie- not an actual life event happening in real time! She was either psychic and able to extract my thoughts while I slept or she was really smart about me through some government agency tasked with monitoring me day and night. The news multiple friends texted me about made it all sound so surreal because this book is what up my alley – it seemed like something that would be great too read.
I teased myself with Red, White & Royal Blue for months after receiving an advance copy, peeking at a few lines on a random page and quickly looking away, searching for a specific word or reference and closing the results if it came up positive – before finally settling down for the all-consuming experience of actually reading the damn book.
It exceeded every personal expectation I could have had in every manner, and I was never ready for it to end. But, of course, McQuiston didn’t write this book for a single reader, and the results are widely motivating.
The book Red, White & Royal Blue is for sure about love. It’s the kind of love that causes you to completely change your world around – in this case, quite literally. But more so than anything else I think it’s about dreams – the ones you give yourself, or maybe even the ones that are out of reach or have not fully been discovered yet. The legacy pieces are also an important part of this story which examines what happens when fate and free will come together – whether they be planned by careful planning or sheer randomness; these moments in history will always be studied at school by future generations who read textbooks on them.
It’s about the rest of the world observing as history is being written in the name of love.
We’ve got some experience with that.
Last weekend, the streets of Manhattan saw WorldPride – the world’s largest global LGBTQ+ celebration- break participation and attendance records. This commemorated not only 50 years since Stonewall but also Pride Month.
The Stonewall Inn raid began in the early hours of June 28, 1969. What is remarkable about this event was that it sparked a wave of civil unrest across America during the 1960s-1970s where gay people would protest heterosexism by refusing to conform to social norms laid out for them by society, which often resulted in violent responses from police officers.
But on that night, there was a defiant shift in the tide-resistance to society’s demand for cover ups or compliance; rather than play by its rules (to stay hidden), people resisted with rebellion and fighting for their right to exist publicly! That night saw gay liberation begin in earnest-in America at least-and its impact was felt worldwide as well.
On the same Pride weekend four years ago, I was in New York City, and on Friday, June 26, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favour of affirming marriage equality as a basic right in all 50 states.
It was the one and only time in my life that I have ever spontaneously felt a deep, tribal urge to go out and be a part of something. It sounds like I’m exaggerating, but it’s true: just because we were all feeling this way together didn’t make it any less real for me or any less intense. So we converged with thousands of others on Christopher Street to watch and listen and feel… We weren’t sure what would happen next, but at least there would be something happening-and if not here then somewhere else.
It’s an experience I’m immensely grateful for, especially given how difficult it has been for other countries to legalize marriage equality via public vote (my country, unfortunately). Output: What we found was a rally at Stonewall Square-we walked up just in time to hear Edith Windsor talk about her activism towards LGBTQ+ rights. As someone who had their o
wn hard-won Supreme Court cases related with same sex marriage around that time period, this experience is one of which I am immensely grateful. The fact that my country didn’t have anything close too such triumphs made me feel much less victorious or content with what happened here then when she passed away from cancer two years ago today.
And it was a lot of fun, with lots of colour, light, and connections.. The atmosphere in every queer space we entered that weekend was buzzing with excitement. Have you ever attended a night performance of Hedwig on Broadway following the afternoon’s Pride Parade? I have- after this week’s approval by the Supreme Court to recognise same-sex marriage as a basic human right – and let me tell you, that audience were so loud! A cacophony of joy rang through our ears when they knew it had finally been recognised as something normal instead of an act for some people only seen as wicked or wrong. It was raucous – totally inappropriate for theatre in some opinions – but it felt like home to be there among all those happy faces celebrating what is now legal across America.
I wish I could have been among the hundreds of thousands of people who came together to raise each other up, to experience the spirit of the city and the world, the ghosts of the past and the possibilities of the future. Gratitude and security. The importance of family, history, and pride cannot be overstated.
And I especially want Alex Claremont-Diaz to be there, dancing on the float while probably wearing something ridiculous. He should also volunteer with charities and give speeches about those who have come before what we owe them. And he would do this, charming everyone of any gender along the way or giving it his all for a cause that is important to him without shame or hesitation. If only he were here soaking up all these things because Alex represents so many incredible things in history! He’s our beloved bisexual biracial president’s son – making history in every action that he does!
So I can understand, a little, what it was like to be in the thick of it last weekend. As we honour half a century of progress – not always in a single forward line, but enough to change minds, save lives, and realise that we can never, ever go back – it’s only natural that New York serves as the 2019 WorldPride host city.
And even more so, I wish Alex Claremont-Diaz could have been there, driving around on his float while probably wearing something ridiculous. He would be volunteering with charitable organizations and giving impassioned speeches about those who came before us and what we owe to them. He is charming the pants off of everyone of any gender! And even though he died at a young age he did everything in his power to represent all the incredible things that he represented – the nation’s beloved biracial bisexual son making history in order for LGBTQ+ youth today to feel more accepted than they may have felt had Alex not existed.
He has no idea what he is missing. He has no idea who he is yet.
Alex is a fictional character, which spares this second-hand retroactive FOMO fantasy from being a genuine tragedy, but it is a testament to his invention that I wish I could have experienced this experience with him so deeply that it stings a little.
Red, White & Royal Blue is a queer enemies-to-lovers romance between two transatlantic national treasures: the aforementioned Alexander Claremont-Diaz, the youngest child of an alternate universe’s Madam President, and Henry Fox-MountchristenWindsorRoyalBlue. After their ongoing hostility causes an incident at a royal wedding cake related to them both–which was not helped by Alex’s surprise that he had feelings for his enemy–Henry and Alex are forced to show public relations driven friendship in order to cover up what they really feel. However when friction clears in this situation it becomes clear that there is much more than just anger between these two people which has developed into something deep within dating. –Alex surprises himself again when he realizes how stron
g these new feels are for someone who once considered him as nothing but his nemesis.
As they’ve fallen harder and deeper in love with one another, their challenge has become trying to keep their feelings a secret from the world while maintaining this long distance relationship. Alex has been juggling college and his mother’s second term campaign trail for her new policy job just as Henry struggles under pressure from his family about how he should be living out the perceived birthright of where is future lies..
I can’t say enough what a joy it is to read Casey McQuiston’s real-world AU. It really sets itself apart from the canon with its delicious complications and triumphs, which are all so much better than the original story. I am using these terms because – and I don’t think she’ll mind me saying this – in many ways Red, White & Royal Blue hits everything that gives me joy when reading fan fiction. And it’s interesting for me to think why exactly that might be.
The best fanfiction weaves a creative world that is familiar and intimate with the reader. It features deep, introspective character studies which give us an understanding of what it would be like to be in someone’s head who we feel like we already know something about, but they are not really expressed too well in their usual medium.
It’s eventually romantic, but it’s generally about so much more: it’s frequently a romance that blossoms from a strong friendship, and the friendship aspect is just as important.It frequently includes on-page sex, and the characters’ sexual experiences typically serve the tale as true character development rather than erotica for the sake of erotica.And, more often than not, plot pieces outside of the romantic conclusion aren’t just for show; they’re important factors that affect the main characters in ways that greatly broaden the scope of the storey.
It’s eventually romantic, but it’s generally about so much more: it’s frequently a romance that blossoms from a strong friendship, and the friendship aspect is just as important. It frequently includes on-page sex, and the characters’ sexual experiences typically serve the tale as true character development rather than erotica for the sake of erotica. And, more often than not, plot pieces outside of the romantic conclusion aren’t just for show; they’re crucial factors that have a significant impact on the main characters and considerably widen the scope of the storey
Fic is often more daring than the source material, but in some cases it can be even safer for a reader. Fic is as cliche as it is original, and just as indulgent at times. It’s really unclear whether or not fic should always have someone’s perspective in first person narrative vs third person narrative voice- after all, one might seem better suited to convey their emotions while another might feel better when removed from emotionality. And yet there are those times that you know right away that this will be perfect for you no matter what because of certain qualities- like if the author uses close third person perspective without being too detailed about character thoughts and feelings along with an entertainingly flawed protagonist who has lost themselves somehow throughout life’s That quality alone makes your heart ache because everything seems so real – even though they’re only words on paper! Output: Do I think fics are necessarily bad or unsafe? Of course not; depending on what type of text I’m reading at any given time (i.e., poetry), then maybe… But to me personally speaking, fanfiction feels less risky sometimes than other forms of writing – sure enough there may end up being scenes where things get graphic/.
This je ne sais quoi, this thing I could call the “oh boy, strap in” aspect to a book is something that most people would recognize. It’s the delicious anticipation or dread you feel before reading what’ll happen…good or bad. When it happens and you realize they were warning signs about what was coming all along – good or bad-you can’t help but explode from excitement because you already know this world well enough to pick up on those calm-before-the-storm implications and love these characters enough for them having tied your heart to theirs permanently as if dragging yours along for the ride with them.
That characteristic can be found in later instalments of a beloved series, which I believe is due to the reader’s familiarity, investment, and faith in the plot, but it’s not something I feel strongly about on my first readthrough of a released solo novel.
Red, White & Royal Blue has all of these markers- from a cast of complex, three dimensional female characters to an exploration into the power and meaning behind what makes us American. This is a novel I highly recommend reading not just because it does everything that would make any reader happy but also because you will fall in love with this beautiful story.
Alex is a complex and fun character, and there were many times reading this book where we could ride shotgun in her head. In any given scene, McQuiston knew exactly what every single character was thinking or feeling to get them to that point- even if Alex didn’t. It made me understand that the author had she wanted could have rewritten the entire book from the perspective of any of these other characters.
This sounds like it should be the most fundamental of basics, but t
he truth is, it’s quite rare. I can’t tell you how many times in a book or movie when something jumps out at me that all the people in a scene have no dimensions aside from what they need to be for that character and their point-of-view at that moment.
Not so in this case. The book leaves plenty of unanswered questions for readers to question, which makes the story seem more real than it actually is. It’s almost incomplete in a good way because McQuiston knows the answers and because she has an understanding of what people want out of their stories. But, even though there are unanswered questions in Red, White & Royal Blue by Alexi McQuiston-it doesn’t feel unfinished or unfulfilled as a whole storyline or arc when you read it; rather just like one snapshot into another world that we’re sadly never able to reach.
We can’t help but think that Alex and Henry will end up living happily ever after. They’re one of the most beloved couples in literature, even if their happy ending is just beginning. And we know this book will be a touchstone for many readers. It’s not only an entrancing story, it’s also helped shape our perspectives on world events and how they relate to us personally – through the lens of family and personal history woven together with these two characters who’ll always come back asking questions because we all need something feel-good every now and again!
It is possible that McQuiston may choose to revisit the characters and explore what their future looks like if they end up marrying. If Alex marries, he will be a member of the royal family for far longer than he was ever a part of The First Family- or she can write more novels with different protagonists in her Red, White and Royal Blue Extended Universe so we hear about them briefly through another character’s TV Or maybe she won’t do either of those things! Either way, at its very last line which is an action line heavy with metaphor, it leaves you wanting more but also gives you all the tools needed to dwell within this world as long as you can imagine..
Of course, part of the reason the book’s worldbuilding feels so strong, and part of the reason you might want to live inside it for the rest of your life, is because – well. You understand why.
If you skip to the book’s acknowledgements, you’ll find out how McQuiston felt in 2016 when her efforts to write a cute and ironic parallel universe featuring the children of America’s first female president were crushed by reality. This led her to struggling with it until she reframed her approach and honed it into something deeply healing and hopeful during horrible circumstances.
I’m not American, but the way I see it sometimes America is so powerful and uncontrolled that they can’t be ignored. They affect us all – more than people realise in America. Sometimes I get frustrated with US citizens who seem to think their country does everything well because no one else matters or even exists! And then other times when I’ve been in an Uber, the driver has apologised on behalf of Americans for what’s happening back home (to me as a tourist). That makes me sad.
In 2012, I was sitting at my place of work back home in America and praying to God that Obama would be re-elected so as to not have Mitt Romney oust him. In 2016, during the election between Clinton and Trump, I sat at a different place of work in Australia where students who were wearing MAGA hats fed each other recklessly while they went on a live stream party chanting threats and obscensities as the presidential election results came out. These Australian citizens didn’t even care about our own presidency; they just wanted any president for themselves!
The utter lack of limits in it is shocking, and has left many people feeling legitimized. It’s stripping others of rights they thought were beyond question. The psychology behind it (and by ‘it,’ I mean everything) is incomprehensible-shocking, terrifying – possible to comprehend only with difficulty. Right now the scale of what’s happening seems impossible to predict or control; day after day
we’re seeing more happen that makes us all feel powerless and defenseless against an onslaught from which there may be no respite for years or decades after Trump leaves office…
Output: It’s not hard to imagine how this brazen permissiveness–the way that it empowers certain types on people while at the same time encourages discrimination among other groups–would strike a nerve within America so deeply as well as across communities both here and abroad who are used to living under different standards than our own longstanding principles demand. For example: trying my best wrap my head around all things “America” yet still grappling with what its citizens have been forced into enduring every single day when faced with continual societal injustices becoming normalized in 2017 alone…makes me wonder if anyone really understands what else could possibly come next? When you add onto such outrageous behavior.
In the United Kingdom, Brexit is causing a similar psychology and permissiveness to these two states of chaos which are amplifying one another. The global superpowers have wreaked havoc on humanity as we know it so far-the consequences cannot be ignored for much longer now that they’re lasting years long, and I don’t see them letting up anytime soon either.
Output: In the UK, Brexit has caused a similar psychology and has enabled people to take more risks; these two states of chaos amplify each other. As such, we’re at risk for social breakdown in society – something never before seen since this country was established centuries ago! These countries’ authorities must come together find remedy quickly because their whole world will suffer if people continue making poor decisions with this newfound freedom afforded by what appears like an act against their government’s sovereig
The thing about this book is- it made me feel hopeful. I’m not saying that lightly at all, because I know how insane it sounds to some people. But when you read the story, there’s a flicker of anticipation for a better tomorrow that sparks in you too. This was the first thing that brought hope back into my life since 2016- and while no one should rely on books to make their lives full of meaning or happiness, they can still be good enough to stave misery off long enough until something better comes along.