The Book Nook: ‘Red, White, and Royal Blue’ explores mature themes surrounding a long distance relationship

The New York Times Bestselling novel, “Red, White, and Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston, takes readers to a world that fights for love rather than hate. The book follows a forbidden romance between the son of an American president, Alex, and the Prince of England, Henry. As both men struggle to uphold their duties to their countries, they find it harder to deny the orders that come from their hearts.

“Red, White, and Royal Blue” is a romance novel, but the characters experience everyday problems that readers can relate to. The book does not overuse the romance aspect or shy away from its mature themes. Alex and Henry are two boys from wealthy well-known families, however, they don’t lead perfect lives. Alex is biracial and bisexual and his parents are divorced; even as an adult, he remains in the middle of their arguments. He tends to overwork himself in order to achieve his dream of becoming a politician, yet this prevents him from enjoying the present. 

Henry is gay with a dysfunctional family. His father died when he was a little boy, his mother stopped caring for him in her grief, his sister became addicted to drugs and his brother and grandmother encouraged him to hide his sexuality to preserve the family image. Throughout the novel, both boys endure backlash from being who they are, but, ultimately, they learn to take pride in themselves.

Even with mature themes, the novel manages to create a healthy balance of passion and humor. Often times, sex scenes are used as a cheap way to draw in more readers. I hate sex scenes because they become too tiresome after the first time and they do not further the plot. However, in this book they serve to demonstrate how Henry and Alex’s relationship progresses at different intervals. Each intimate scene establishes that another level of trust has been reached and they build upon their characters. 

When they are not being physical, they are able to joke around and tease each other. I found myself laughing at some of the dorky conversations the two boys share. These young men are political figures, but when they aren’t expected to act in front of a camera they can talk about their love of Star Wars or Alex’s fear of turkeys. Since they must practice a long distance relationship, they rely more on communication with each other. This rhythm they fall into when they email each other tells more about their love than when they kiss.

Also, this novel does not forget to build relationships outside of the central romance between Henry and Alex. As their relationship grew, they did not cut themselves off from the world, rather their worlds expanded. They each gained new friends and strengthened old friendships as well. They began to allow themselves to become more vulnerable, understanding the need to communicate with and trust others. More romance novels should show this type of dynamic. Falling in love with someone should not mean one has to fall out of other types of relationships.

With our world facing dark times, a feel-good novel such as this serves as a reminder that anyone can find happily ever after even against impossible odds. A little love has and will always find a way to make history less bleak.

Verdict:  “Red, White, and Royal Blue” succeeds in representing readers of many different communities while telling the story of two boys seeking to earn their spots in history. Its relatable characters and snarky humor are combined to make this novel as heartwarming as it is steamy.

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