Red, White, & Royal Blue | Book Review

Title: Red, White, & Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publish Date: May 14, 2019
Genre: New Adult – Romance, Fiction
Pages: 425
Format: Kindle Books

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

I’m going to say it: if you haven’t heard about this book by now, have you been living under a rock? Even if you have no interest in reading it, I feel like the name has at least made its rounds through the book community and as such, many people have read this book and highly enjoyed it.

I am also one of those people. Also, this is a long review, my apologies.

Going into it, I didn’t realize that this was, in fact, a new adult LGBT+ romance novel. I knew there was a boys’ love theme, of course, but I didn’t realize just how steamy it was going to be (which I’m fine with steamy). I expected this to be a more YA book, but nope! And I’m actually quite happy with this surprise because I feel like it made it that much more entertaining and relatable to myself as a person in their late twenties.

Alex and his older sister, June, whom he affectionately calls Bug, like a junebug, and I think that’s the sweetest thing ever, are the First Siblings of the United States, and their personalities are so different, but also very similar. They both have party sides, they both are trying to protect their family no matter what, but where Alex is much more high risk and willing to take big chances (a big theme throughout the book), June is much more reserved, but still willing to take chances and prove that she’s enough on her own to do what her heart is set out to do.

I personally enjoyed seeing the sibling dynamic in the book because I don’t often see siblings interacting with each other in books, and this relationship felt organic. They fought sometimes, they got along great, they’d call each other names, they’d do anything for their family, etc. Even though this wasn’t the main plot of the book, I was still very glad to see such a presence of it.

As for Henry, I think I related to him the most. He’d been through a traumatic time with his own family, and part of him had been almost hollowed out because of the experience. His family dynamic, though very different from Alex’s, was also fairly organic, with a distant sibling, one who believes in legacy and doing what needs to be done for the crown; and then another sibling who goes off the rails, but is always there for her family when she’s needed. Henry, himself, is very reserved. Reflecting on it, he’s kind of the opposite of Alex in many ways, which is probably why they work together so much.

Henry cares for his family deeply, cares for many people deeply, but he also knows that he has a huge responsibility on his shoulders, a duty to the crown that can seem overbearing much of the time, and that can wither him and bring him down a lot. He has dark shadows of his past, an absentee mother (even if she’s physically there, she’s not there mentally or emotionally), and he seems to try to deal with a lot on his own. He has a lot of walls that need to be broken down, and I enjoyed seeing those walls slowly come down throughout the novel.

Now, let’s talk about their relationship because, excuse me but it was the cutest thing I’ve read in a while and I needed more, thanks.

I’m also glad this wasn’t a case of insta-love, but rather a build up of feelings over years of time – at least on one of their parts. Even though Alex hates Henry because he doesn’t really know him in the beginning, when he does get to know him, he learns so much about him and begins to realize many things about himself and his past. He’s in denial for a lot of it, which is also reasonable and believable, and I was glad to see that.

As someone in the LGBT+ spectrum, seeing that internal struggle was good because I could relate to it a lot.

I did, however, feel like him coming to terms with it was kind of abrupt? I don’t know, maybe there was a timeline happening that I didn’t pick up on, but I thought he figured himself out kind of quickly and didn’t struggle as much as I was expecting. Is that weird to say?

Anyway, once their relationship got started, it was full of those hot, passionate, romantic sparks that fly when many people enter a new relationship, especially one that’s been building for a long, long time like theirs was. Can you say “sexual tension?” Because goddamn, there was a lot.

It was hot and steamy, and the way their relationship blossomed and grew felt as organic as it could get, given that they’re two very wealthy boys in very high positions and could more or less easily reach one another at the drop of a dime across the world. There was a lot of emotions and feelings and buildup throughout the whole book that I could feel growing to a climax (ha), and when the thing happened that I kind of saw coming once it was getting closer to it, I was like, “You’ll be fine, go chase after him!”

And Alex did. He didn’t give up, and the two of them are stubborn enough to chase after each other even though they’re afraid. I thought it was very poetic and romantic, and my hopeless romantic heart was bleeding happiness.

Also, there were A LOT of great quotes in this book, and though I didn’t highlight all of them, I wanted to share three of my favorites from some of the emails they shared with each other:

page 245
page 300
page 321

So, all in all in the relationship aspect, I highly enjoyed it. They kept it a secret as long as they could, and honestly, I was waiting for everything to go to shit at some point, and it did. But again: names in high places. I AM, however, glad to see a lot of rallying support in their ever growing and ever accepting world, even a fictional parallel universe version of ours.

Let’s briefly talk about the politics aspect, because this is where the half mark comes in my rating.

I… zoned out through a lot of the politics stuff, especially early on in the book. Like… I have no clue what the hell I read regarding the politics, kind of zoning out. It’s just not my thing. I’m not interested in them in real life, so reading about them in a book just wasn’t that exciting to me. Some bits were interesting, but a lot of it was just something I could easily zone out and skip over and come back to things I found more interesting for myself.

I did, however, cheer and smile at the end. If you’ve read it, you know why.

Overall, I highly enjoyed this book. It was sweet, romantic, funny, organic, raw, political, and wholly a good book. I highly recommend it.

★★★★½☆

My Lady Jane Book Review

myladyjaneTitle: My Lady Jane
Authors: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Genre: Young Adult – Historical Fiction, Romance, Comedy
Pages: 491
Format: Received Hardcover in Uppercase Box for June

EDWARD is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown. . . .

JANE is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than in romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended . . .

GIFFORD is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.

THE PLOT THICKENS as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?

The comical, fantastical, romantical, entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey but not really

Lady Jane Grey, sixteen, is about to be married to a total stranger—and caught up in an insidious plot to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But that’s the least of Jane’s problems. She’s about to become Queen of England.

Like that could go wrong.

I had been in a reading slump before I picked up this book and I am so glad I chose to read this when I did because OH MAN, there is so much humor in this book!

This is an historical fiction retelling novel about a young woman by the name of Jane Grey who, upon her cousin’s surmised “death,” she becomes queen for about nine days before the proverbial poop hits the fan.

The book is divided into two parts: the first part being all of the events before and leading up to when Jane becomes Queen and when she is almost killed because of it; and the second part being where the narrators (who break into the story every once in a while) change history.

Of course there are actual differences in real history and their history for this retelling, such as the magic in this world being ones in which humans, depending on their lineage, can turn into animals – these kinds of people were called Eðian (pronounced eth-ee-uhn). And, like any ruling country of the time in the 1500’s, not a lot of people liked those who could change – and these people were called Verities. And then you get the common folk who don’t bend one way or the other.

The plot of the book was engaging and had me wanting to turn the page to find out what happens next, who can be trusted, what kinds of twists and turns were going to happen, and oh. The humor. Yeah, there was that, too. It followed three main characters: Edward, Jane, and Gifford (call him G!) and each chapter was in the point of view of one respectively. I thought this was a great move because it allowed us to have different perspectives and takes as to what was going on in their surroundings and how each person would react in those situations. It started off with a few common problems that needed to be fixed, to betrayal being had, to a forced wedding, more betrayal, and so on.

Edward – or rather, King Edward VI – is a sixteen year old boy-king who doesn’t really rule the country; he lets his advisors do it for him, signing what needs to be signed when he’s told about the changes and such. He hasn’t really come into his own at the beginning and I thought that was interesting and a bit of a refresher because I’m so used to reading about princes and kings that are stuffy and cautious and all of that. Edward was kind of a hot mess, and I appreciated that. He has the worst sense of timing and direction, easily offends the ladies (without meaning to), and he is kind of a whiner. But as the book progresses into the second half, he starts to become much more open minded and accepting of a lot of things and he becomes stronger as a result of the people and circumstances around him. I was actually quite impressed with him at the end.

Jane is a stubborn girl who loves – LOVES – to read books, and carry books with her, and put puts ahead of people. She hates the idea of marriage, but she hates being told what to do more because she believes she has her own mind to make her own decisions, thank you very much. I found that she was kind of lost and troubled in the beginning due to the circumstances surrounding her, but as the story progressed she proved that she is not only brave, but also a risk taker and willing to help those she cares about. She’s very much a modest young lady of sixteen, but I found that she really grew on me and that she was definitely a strong young woman.

Gifford – or G, as he prefers to be called – just wants to be free to run and live without having to worry about the pressures his father may put on him, or his father looking down on him. We learn very early on that G is an Eðian, and that he views himself to be cursed as he changes into a horse when the sun rises, then back into a man when the sun sets. He has some secrets, and he lets people think what they want to about him, but I found that he was one of my favorite characters. He was so willing and ready to protect Jane a lot throughout this book and he also was a great asset to the whole plot. I found him to be stubborn as well, but also so full of emotion.

There were also secondary characters in this story that played a big role, such as Gracie – a Scottish lass with a fiery tongue and wore trousers (gasp!), Pet (Edward’s pet dog), Gran (Edward & Jane’s grandmother), among others. I loved each of these characters because they brought so much life into the story, and obviously helped to further along the plot.

And the romance was also adorable and sweet as we watched the love between characters blossom, and one character being a silly git, and oh man. All the warm, fuzzy feels at the end.

Overall, I really, really enjoyed this book. The humor was fantastic and referenced a lot of phrases and sayings that we say today or that would have been said during a later time period, the romance was adorable, the characters each grew in positive ways, and the plot was interesting and made me want to know what was going to happen next.

I rated this book 5/5 stars and highly recommend it!

Rayna Recommends: Manga Favorites

Hey everyone! I know I haven’t done a recommendation post in quite a while, but I wanted to start the new year off with one of my favorite kinds of books: manga!

I started reading manga back in sixth grade when my best friend introduced me to it. I was hooked for a long time, but I stopped really reading them in college because my interests were changing – but I still enjoy reading a good manga series!

So I thought today I’d recommend some of my personal favorites. They spread over a few genres, but the bigger theme is that they all have some form of romance in them or another.

So here is my list of recommended manga:

1 . Fushigi Yuugi by Yuu Watase

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This is my most favorite series of all time. It’s about a girl who gets pulled into the world of a book and how she has to live in that book until the end, pretty much. There’s romance, action, adventure, SO MANY FEELS, and so much more. I love Yuu Watase’s art style so, so much, and really, anything by her is amazing.

2. Ayashi no Ceres (Ceres Celestial Legend) by Yuu Watase

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This is a more mature series by her, but it’s still a beautiful tale about twins who come to find out a secret about their family and how each of them have their own fates to play out once the secret’s out. It’s got romance, action, fantastical elements, magic, and more.

3. Chobits by CLAMP

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This series by CLAMP is one about a boy who goes off to college and finds a persacom (robot) left out in the garbage outside his apartment. When he brings her back in and activates her, he discovers that there’s a lot more to persacoms than he originally thought – and just how valuable his is. I love, love, love this manga series not only for the art style, but the story as well. Each character is one you get attached to and it’s just a fun, and sometimes intense, story to follow.

4. Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya

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This twelve volume series is a long one, but it’s about a girl who stumbles upon some classmates and comes to find out that they change into animals when they’re hugged by someone of the opposite sex. It’s a story about the zodiac and it’s a really good series. The art style took a while for me to get used to, but I otherwise adore the story and characters and I suggest giving it a go.

5. Tokyo Mew Mew by Reiko Yoshida & Mia Ikumi

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The manga series that started it all, of course this series has a special place in my heart. It’s about magical girls who partly turn into animals and have to defeat some evil foes. I really adore the art style and the story, but I have to keep reminding myself how young these characters are. But still, it’s a fun story!

6. Ao Hare Ride by Io Sakisaka

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I. Love. This. Manga. It’s seriously an amazing story about two high school students just going about their days, and one day they fall in love. It’s sweet and funny, and sometimes serious, and I just love it to pieces. Like, I can’t even. Go read it.

7. Kaichou-wa Maid-sama by Hiro Fujiwara

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This series is about a girl who is very standoffish but is then forced to take care of one of her classmates. There’s a lot of silliness that ensues, but it’s also a love story. This one made me laugh a lot and I think it’s just one of those series that’s a great pick-me-up.

Honestly, I can’t recommend these few series enough. They are some of my absolute favorites ever and I think that if you like to laugh, you’ll enjoy any and all of them. There are serious moments involved in each of them, as well as romance and action. Check them out sometime!

Have you read any of these series? What manga do you recommend to me? Let me know!