- What: Red, White & Royal Blue
- Who: Casey McQuiston
- Pages: 425, hard cover
- Genres: Contemporary fiction and LGBTQ
- Published: 2019
- The lit: of 5 flames
With everything happening in the world right now, it’s important that we don’t forget an important celebration: Pride Month!
June has to be the most loving and colorful month of the year. That’s because for 30 days we celebrate that love is love regardless of gender or sexual orientation. And it occurs in June, so that we can remember and celebrate the Stonewall riots that happened 51 years ago, giving rise to equality for the LGBTQ+ community.
Despite those riots and the progress that they catalyzed, it would be misleading and ignorant to assume the LGBTQ+ community can love and live the same way straight, cisgender people can. Narrow-mindedness runs rampant in the world, including in our own backyards with a president who doesn’t govern for all people. In addition to outright discriminations, social constructs still make it difficult for people to come out and love freely.
That’s why we need books like Red, White & Royal Blue, a 2019 novel that throws all harmful conventions out the window and asks what some will definitely perceive as a radical question: What if an immediate member of the first family were gay?
If you read this book and did not root for Alex Claremont-Diaz and Prince Henry, please leave this blog or challenge yourself to understand why their relationship is the fictional tale we need to make all love equal.
Happy Pride Month!
“Thinking about history makes me wonder how I’ll fit into it one day, I guess. And you too. I kinda wish people still wrote like that. History, huh? Bet we could make some.” — Red, White & Royal Blue
The Claremont-Diaz family isn’t what you’d expect from the first family of the United States. For one thing, the matriarch, Ellen, is the first female president of the U.S. She’s also divorced from a Latino congressman. The two of them are very into 2020 co-parenting, and he even spends Christmas at the White House with Ellen, her new husband, Leo, and their two children, Alex and June. Doesn’t this diversity sound like a treat for a change? These are the type of traditional family values I’d like to see more of.
As the youngest of the first children duo, Alex is finishing his senior year of college as his mother ramps up her re-election campaign. He never stops to breathe and can’t wait to dive head first into his own political career the second he graduates. Before that can happen, though, he must maintain his social status and international relationships, including a friendship with heartthrob Prince Henry of England.
The royal bachelor has always been Alex’s sworn enemy, but he promises photo ops and charity events to prop up the Claremont-Diaz name nonetheless. Once they actually have meaningful conversation, though, Alex realizes he has more in common with the prince than he thought and that there’s a sexy, vulnerable kindness beneath the cold, hard exterior. Those traits will lead Alex to discover a part of himself he’d been denying his whole life.
As the two embark on a lustful yet loving relationship, they know they must keep it hidden so as to not ruin President Claremont’s re-election campaign. Then there’s the Queen of England whose penchant for tradition will never allow a member of her family to be out. The feelings Alex and Henry have for one another, though, might just be worth the risks and the sacrifices.
“God, if any ghosts of the Founding Fathers are hanging around the White House tonight, they must really be suffering.” — Red, White & Royal Blue
Casey McQuiston, who is openly bisexual, gives us many gifts with her debut novel. For one thing, this book is fun to read — not to mention it contains many thirsty moments. But if you think this is some faceless chick lit with little to say and with the intention to only entertain, you are wrong.
Let’s be clear: That’s a common misconception about chick lit, and I am not here for it.
On the contrary, this book is the perfect mix of fluffy and fun while still tackling numerous issues. Let’s just name a few:
- The difficulty and consequences of coming out;
- The portrayal of the LGBTQ+ community;
- Privacy and gossip;
- Anxiety and depression;
- Celebrity obsession;
- The lack yet necessity of diversity in government;
- The dangers of tradition and conservative politics;
- Political calculations (even a liberal politician has reservations about being too diverse); and
- The insane amount of effort and energy and pettiness of a political campaign and its effects.
Don’t be a skeptic who thinks that many issues can’t possibly be intertwined cohesively in a novel because McQuiston will prove you wrong. Red, White & Royal Blue‘s narrative — with so much to say — never feels choppy. Rather, it flows freely while simultaneously balancing the fun and excitement of a fledgling relationship with the turbulence and anxiety of coming out. McQuiston hits all the right emotions at exactly the right places without any part of the pendulum overpowering the other.
“That, he realizes suddenly, is the danger of allowing love into this — the acknowledgment that if something goes wrong, he doesn’t know how he will stand it.” — Red, White & Royal Blue
Most importantly, she addresses all of the issues you’d think would arise in politics and with coming out — and all of the issue you can’t really imagine because sadly the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t have equal representation in the political arena to provide those perspectives. The side plots that focus on mental health, especially the challenges of coping with depression while maintaining a certain image, really bolster underlying themes that speak to us in 2020.
“It’s honest in a way that resonates in an era where more and more millennials are openly discussing their mental health issues,” writes Daniel Taroy for Vanity Fair. “But more than anything,” Taroy continues, “it’s just a lot of fun.”
That’s exactly what we need right now in this messed-up world where every day brings heartbreaking, tragic, and discriminatory news. Even better, we get that escapism in the context of a queer story — a perspective not portrayed enough in literature. It’s books like this that can drive our collective society toward more-open conversations, attitudes, and governments that better protect all people. Being a sassy and fun novel that still releases an array of emotions makes it all the more powerful.