Written by: Cameron Deslaurier
I cannot remember the last romance novel—the last piece of romance media, even—that I consumed before Red, White & Royal Blue.
The 2019 LGBTQ+ romance by Casey McQuiston focuses on the rivalry-turned-fake-friendship-turned-something-else between Alexander Claremont-Diaz, First Son of the first woman to become U.S. president, and High Royal Highness Prince Henry, third in line to the British throne (or, in Alex’s phone, HRH Prince Dickhead 💩).
When the book was recommended to me by a colleague, I was initially skeptical. After all, I didn’t read romance. But I trusted their judgment, so I bought the book on Audible, and proceeded to spend every excusable moment of the next week listening.
Because, inexplicably, out of nowhere, was a romance that felt real and now about people like me. One that was uproarious, well written, and about more than the marginalization we face in the LGBTQ+ community (though that’s in there too). The book kept me guessing, kept me needing to know what happened to Alex and Henry, because I needed to know what could happen to me. And what I found brought me to tears: hope, and a picture of a romance between two men that was hilarious, earnest, caring “love on purpose,” and—dare I say it?—sexy.
I listened as I ate breakfast, as I cleaned the house, when I went for runs, ate lunch, ate dinner, and even when I showered. I came up with extra housework so I wouldn’t have to stop listening. Halfway through, I bought a hard copy off of Amazon with the burning need to own and write in a book that I’d never known was something I wanted, let alone needed.
Because, to compound the issue of ridicule surrounding reading romance (see Rylee’s wonderful Romance Novels: A Safe Space For Female Representation), I was also steered away from the genre growing up by the lack of characters with lives I could relate to. But in Red, White & Royal Blue, I realized that maybe it wasn’t that I didn’t like romance—maybe I just didn’t like much of the romance I’d read.
I’m fond of saying “It’s hard to be what you cannot see.” Red, White & Royal Blue gave me the first narrative of a gay romance that allowed me to envision parts of a relationship that I’d actually want to be in, and it said “We’re here. We’ve always been here.”
So, needless to say, I’ll be doing a dive into more LGBTQ+ romance. I’m done reading the kinds of books I think I “should,” and I can’t wait to see what I’ll find. I’ve already read Avi Roque’s Cemetery Boys, and will recommend Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg as long as anyone will listen. My current read-in-progress is The Charm Offensive, which I’ll get back to you on soon… if I have time. The Song of Achilles is staring at me from my bookshelf, and I hear I really need to read The Darkness Outside Us.