Narrator: Ramón de Ocampo Publisher: MacMillan Audio
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
Series or Standalone: Standalone
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble –
CW: Homophobia; outing; depression; grief
I feel like this will be a very unpopular opinion, so stick with me, but I did not like Red, White and Royal Blue. I’m very late to the game with reading this, but this is a super hyped book, and I tend to push off reading those as me and hyped books don’t tend to mix well. And that was certainly the case with this book. From the romance to the characters to the plot, this book was just not good. And I’ll be honest – the hype had me expecting more.
The premise of this book is pretty simple – Alex Claremont-Diaz, the President’s son, falls for Prince Henry after the two of them have to play nice for the cameras after an incident at the Royal Wedding. However, as they fake being friends, they realize they both have feelings for each other. But as Alex’s mother kicks off her reelection bid, Alex and Henry have to keep their relationship a secret to avoid damaging her reelection campaign.
Before diving into the details of some things that didn’t work for me, I wanted to say that I enjoyed the narration of this audiobook. Ramón de Ocampo gave a solid performance, and I thought his accent work was fantastic. He brought more life and depth to Henry and Alex than I was expecting than I think he was given in the text (more on that shortly). If I were reading this in book form, I probably would have put the book down, but de Ocampo made it a bit more manageable to get through on audio.
First things first – I hated Alex. Like truly HATED him as a character. Unfortunately, the book is told solely from his POV, which really colored my opinion of the whole story as his personality grated on me. He’s a pretentious, entitled, spoiled, self-obsessed jerk for most of the book. I could not deal with the entitlement he had – he just expected to be the youngest politician ever yet fails to see how he benefits from nepotism to get his positions on campaigns. He treats others, including his friends and loved ones, with incredibly little regard and views everything from the perspective of how it impacts him.
I found Henry much more palatable compared to Alex. Despite Henry being a prince, he was more approachable and normal than Alex. But Henry also came across as incredibly bland and one-dimensional. He felt like a caricature of every British stereotype of the Royals. I felt like I never really got to know Henry as a person and understand what he was going through as much as I would have liked. Part of this could be because we only see Henry through Alex’s eyes. I would have enjoyed this book so much more if it were dual POV as it would mean I would get to spend less time with Alex and get to know Henry a lot more. A dual POV would have brought much more depth to the characters and the emotions.
Now, as to the romance. This book is billed as an enemies-to-lovers, but let me tell you, it is not. Alex and Henry literally don’t like each other for all of two seconds before they’re suddenly making gooey eyes at each other. I don’t think I can even tell you why they didn’t like each other in the beginning as it’s such a small detail in the book. I felt like the romance developed at a decent pace, with a pretty solid friendship forming between Henry and Alex. However, Alex and Henry spent the bulk of the book being pretty hot and heavy together. I personally like my romances to have a bit of a slower build with lots of sexual tension between the main couple before they reach their happily ever after. The romance plot also seemed to be wrapped up at the 75% mark as the book’s last quarter abruptly pivoted to focus very heavily on politics.
Speaking of the pivot to politics, what the heck was that ending? I self-identify as a liberal-leaning Democrat and consider myself very involved in politics, and the ending still made me want to throw the book across the room. For some reason, in a book with the Prince of England and the President’s son falling in love, the ending of this book was what made me lose the suspension of disbelief. Given our political climate, there is no way that ending would ever play out. I also found the blackmail plot a bit much and unnecessary. While reading is inherently a political act, the politics in this book that was billed as a romance were shoved in your face without any really good justification for why. I still don’t know why Alex’s mom was deserving of a second term, let alone winning the way she does. It just felt too fairy-tale and idealistic to me.
As for the writing in this book, I felt like I couldn’t tell if Red, White and Royal Blue is supposed to be a young adult novel or more adult. I struggled with the imbalance in the tone and content with where this book should fall on the genre scale. The novel’s tone comes across as very YA and cutesy, and Henry and Alex both feel younger than they are. However, the content in the book leans more adult with the romance, as it is a bit more steamy than you’d find in YA. Additionally, I found many side characters severely lacking in development and interchangeable. I honestly couldn’t remember who June or Nora was, even though they were given different voices in the audiobook. Even Alex’s parents and Senator Luna felt very underdeveloped in the story.
Oddly enough, when I was reading this book they announced the novel’s film adaptation. Somehow, despite not liking the story, I feel like I would watch the movie as I think that medium may be better suited for this tale. Alex’s POV really hampered my enjoyment of the story, and I think on film, you’d be less in his head and get a more well-rounded view of Henry and Alex and their relationship.
To end this long review, Red, White and Royal Blue seriously did not live up to the hype for me. I’m glad it wasn’t the first book I’ve read from Casey McQuiston as I’m not sure I would have picked up a second. I might be in the minority with this, but I liked One Last Stop much more than this.