This book takes place in an alternate reality where a woman has won the 2016 Presidential elections, and her son Alex is the main character. After an international incident that reveals his rivalry with Prince Henry of Wales, the two are forced to fake a friendship that ultimately sparks a secret romance between them.
***Genres: Contemporary, Romance, New Adult
Wowza…I did not like this at all.
This is an ARC that I requested after seeing universal praise online, but it turned out to be a major letdown for me. I am probably one of the few people in the world who doesn’t love Carry On, and this book was in the same ballpark, except perhaps worse?
Because to start, I am not feeling how matter-of-factly the author threw me into the setup. The book starts with Alex and Henry as “archenemies,” but within 50 pages they’re already best friends, then enter the stage where their dynamic is all sex, and at some midway point they are already calling each other saccharine terms like “babe” or “sweetheart.” This romance feels rushed without these characters ever having had that quiet or epiphanic “click,” and so I could not buy into how quickly it escalated.
Furthermore, the prose is grating to swallow. The author uses present tense terms as though Alex is a first-person narrator when he really is not, and this is exacerbated by the overly colloquial prose and an oversaturation of pop culture references. The latter particularly made me want to die as this book reads as though it was narrated by some foul-mouthed teen who watches too much Riverdale and parties all year around.
(Ya know, despite attending college, doing interviews and modeling shoots for big-name magazines, helping with his mother’s political campaigns, and keeping a clean profile in order to be an aspiring politician himself? Yep, so believable.)
In that, the author did not do a great job selling the realism to me. The hyperbolic nature of an alternate reality premise could be likened to that of a cheesy yet fun Hallmark movie, but because it is taken for granted that characters are prepping for political campaigns and attending college at the same time (without showing them struggling to juggle a social life on top of everything else), I was left feeling skeptical.
But what truly cemented my dissatisfaction with this book is the lack of character introversion. They are not presented entirely without motivation, yet the author skims over every compelling discussion to be had as characters would simply brush aside potential roadblocks within chapters (struggles of coming out, leading on your gay best friend, the price of fame, etc.), and I found that too convenient to take seriously.
Bottom line, I couldn’t fully buy into any aspect of this book as it felt too much like wish fulfillment. Sure, the banter’s cute and the morals progressive, but when that is all there is to your book (without realistic conflicts or nuanced characters), I am not going to be invested as there is too little of substance for me to grab onto.
Recommended? I mean…*waves hands helplessly*
This is a case where you should judge the book for yourself as I’m apparently the uncultured swine who didn’t love Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, and thus have no right to judge books like this. But considering how even Carry On had better characters, finale, and consequences, I wouldn’t recommend Red, White & Royal Blue myself.
But if you do plan on reading it, keep in mind that this book is not YA, but rather best suited for ages 17 and up as the characters are in their early twenties, and the sex scenes are rather prolific (arguably explicit), and there’s swearing galore.
Bottom line: Gave me diabetes.
I truly could’ve indulged in this campy premise, but because I never felt sold on the plot nor conflicts, all this book really chocked up to was a cheap regurgitation of modern and pop culture references, as well as a flimsy progression of “enemies to lovers” romance that did not serve to develop characters in any meaningful way.
So while I might’ve recommended this book as a cute and sugary read, it felt too shallow in the way that fan fiction would as the writing was irritatingly juvenile, and the outcomes like wish fulfillment. Sugar overload I’d say. 🍰
Rating: 2/5 frogs (probably lower tbh, but don’t hold me to that)
***Ahem, please don’t skin me alive for this review. I get why people would love this book, but it is one of the very few books in my life that I have actually struggled to finish. Don’t let that put you off though since I’m in the clear minority here. ✌️
***Also, thank you to Netgalley for sending an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions stated are my own and have not been influenced in any way.
***Lastly on a closing note, what the actual fuck happened to WordPress while I was away for two years. Holy mother of cows I’m having a crisis navigating these new settings.