I had heard nothing but good things about this book by Casey McQuiston, but as I keep mentioning on this blog, I have no time to read these days. Fortunately, my library had my back once again and helped me out by providing the audiobook, which was a delight to listen to.
This book is every bit as charming and fun as everyone says it is. It reminded me a little bit of Netflix’s new show The Politician, but with slightly less scheming and talk of destiny.
It’s written in the third person, but it’s mostly from the point of view of Alex Claremont-Diaz, First Son of the United States (FSOTUS). His mom is a white, strawberry-blonde woman from Texas while his dad is Mexican (I can’t remember if he’s a first or second-generation immigrant). Both his parents are in politics, but they divorced years ago and now his dad lives mostly in California while Alex, his sister, June, live with their mom in Texas and the White House. Alex is finishing up college, but still manages to spend most of his time at the White House working on his mom’s reelection campaign when he isn’t studying. He’s an insomniac, which is good because you need to be an insomniac in order to handle everything he has on his plate.
The book starts with a diplomatic trip to London for Prince Philip’s marriage. Alex is already dreading the whole ordeal because he hates Philip’s younger brother, Henry. Henry and Alex are both gorgeous and smart and get a lot of press coverage because of who their families are, and Alex is totally keeping score of who looks better, who gets the most and best coverage etc. He basically sees Henry as a white version of himself – someone who’s had everything handed to him on a golden platter because he happened to be born white, rich, and royal to boot.
So, on the plane ride over the Atlantic, everyone is taking bets on how badly Alex will fuck up. Sure enough, he has a little too much to drink at the reception, confronts Henry for being maddeningly perfect, and when Henry starts to walk away, Alex tries to pull him back, but manages to trip and bring Henry down with him, causing them both to go crashing into the $75,000 wedding cake.
The damage control after the fact involves Alex flying back to London a few weeks later to spend a quality weekend with Henry where they go to a bunch of functions together and tell the media that they’re really best friends, and that the incident at Prince Philip’s wedding was just a “bro mishap”. They’re given cheat sheets on each other so that, when asked, they can pretend they know enough about each other to hopefully convince the world at large that they really are BFFs. Alex even has to sign a rather exhaustive non-disclosure agreement that basically states he won’t talk about anything he might see or hear pertaining to the the royal family or their palaces or anything to do with them at all when he’s there over the weekend.
Of course, Alex dreads the weekend, but it ends up not being that bad and he realizes Henry isn’t that bad. At the end of it, they exchange phone numbers so they can keep in touch and exchange crucial information in case anyone from the press asks them in the future about their friendship, and of course this leads to them texting almost constantly (Prince Henry is also an insomniac, which is good because it makes the time difference less of an issue), and chatting on the phone pretty regularly. Alex puts Henry in his phone as “HRH Prince Dickhead Poop Emoji”, and while the physical book has the actual emoji in there, listening to the audiobook meant listening to the narrator say “HRH Prince Dickhead Poop Emoji” every time Henry texted Alex and it was just so delightful!
You can see where this is going, right? I mean, it is a romance, so of course, they end up falling in love, but Henry has to make the first move because, until he does, Alex doesn’t even realize that he’s into men. So Henry kissing him (and the fact that he didn’t hate it), creates a bit of a personal crisis for him and it takes him a while to sort it all out and come to terms with the fact that he’s bisexual.
Henry is “very, very gay”, but it’s not any easier for him since members of the British royal family are simply not allowed to be gay. His sister knows and the rest of his family guesses, but pretend they don’t.
Once Alex comes to terms with his sexuality and admits that he is very attracted to Henry, it’s just a matter of finding times and places when they can hook up, which involves help from both of their service personnel. Alex wants it to be just non-exclusive sex – no feelings, but you know that’s not going to happen, right?
Of course they fall in love and the true nature of their relationship gets leaked to the press, creating a huge scandal, but they learn to deal with it and they inform the rest of the royal family that they’re going to have to deal with it, too. The haters come out to hate, but there’s also a huge swell of support and they get to live happily ever after.
I loved everything about this book. Alex and Henry have some of the best banter ever, and the side characters are every bit as enjoyable as Alex and Henry. There’s Alex’s sister, June, Henry’s sister, Beatrice, Cassius, the Secret Service agent in charge of taking care of Alex and June, and Zahra, the president’s deputy chief of staff. I’d say Zahra was my favorite, but it’s really hard to pick a favorite in this cast. Zahra just had some of the best moments because she had to deal with the fallout every time Alex got in trouble with the press. Some of her lines rival anything Alex and Henry say to each other and I loved every minute of listening to this audiobook.
What did you read/listen to this week? Anything else as delightful as this gem?