From the moment I heard of a book about a rebellious First Son of the United States falling for the Prince of England, I became wildly obsessed with getting my hands on it, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect it to become one of my most beloved books of the year. In what is truly an outstanding debut novel, Casey McQuiston’s distinct and wonderfully whimsical writing style makes us lose ourselves in a tender romance that moves, inspires, and makes us believe. McQuiston paints a beautiful portrait of humanity with a story that celebrates love, courage, and individuality in all its glorious colours, quickly becoming one of the most romantic tales I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.
“I think it’s amazing. Sworn enemies forced to make peace to settle tensions between their countries? There’s something totally Shakespearean about it.”
In the eyes of the world, the offspring of the sitting President of the United States are the closest thing America has to royalty, and no one embodies that ideal more than the son of the country’s first female head of state and America’s golden boy—Alex Claremont-Diaz. And while every aspect of his private life has been open to press scrutiny from the moment his mother began running for office, one thing the public has never been privy to is his long-standing grudge against Prince Henry of England. Because from the moment they met, there has been a discreet rivalry between them, until their latest squabble ends up splashed across the tabloids and turns into a public relations nightmare for both their countries.
“This is idiotic,” Alex says, grasping Henry’s hand. The skin is soft, probably exfoliated and moisturized daily by some royal manicurist. There’s a royal photographer right on the other side of the fence, so he smiles winningly and says through his teeth, “Let’s get it over with.”
“I’d rather be waterboarded,” Henry says, smiling back. The camera snaps nearby. His eyes are big and soft and blue, and he desperately needs to be punched in one of them. “Your country could probably arrange that.”
Alex throws his head back and laughs handsomely, loud and false. “Go fuck yourself.”
So as not to distract the entire country from his mother’s re-election campaign by single-handedly destabilising American/British relations, Alex is forced to play damage control by pretending to be best friends with his arch nemesis. But somewhere between joint public appearances, hundreds of texts exchanged, and many a late-night phone call for no reason at all, they not only get to know one another better, but a genuine friendship begins to form between them, too. And then a kiss changes everything.
“Remember when we dated?”
Nora swallows a massive bite and grins. “Why yes, I do, Alejandro.”
Alex forces a laugh. “So, knowing me as well as you do—”
“In the biblical sense.”
“Numbers on me being into dudes?”
That pulls Nora up short, before she cocks her head to the side and says, “Seventy-eight percent probability of latent bisexual tendencies. One hundred percent probability this is not a hypothetical question.”
“Yeah. So.” He coughs. “Weird thing happened. You know how Henry came to New Year’s? He kinda . . . kissed me?”
As Alex begins to explore and openly embrace his newly-discovered sexuality, he grows more and more smitten with a complex man who never stops surprising him—a man who feels deeply but hides his true self from most, a man who believes he must choose his birthright over his own happiness, a man who loves selflessly and with all his heart but dares not hope to be loved in kind. We watch their affections grow even as they continue hiding their romance from everyone but those closest to them. They come together in secret, they exchange heartfelt love letters whenever they must stay apart, and their every stolen touch is so intense and intimate, those private moments between them make us feel like prying voyeurs.
“Should I tell you that when we’re apart, your body comes back to me in dreams? That when I sleep, I see you, the dip of your waist, the freckle above your hip, and when I wake up in the morning, it feels like I’ve just been with you, the phantom touch of your hand on the back of my neck fresh and not imagined? That I can feel your skin against mine, and it makes every bone in my body ache? That, for a few moments, I can hold my breath and be back there with you, in a dream, in a thousand rooms, nowhere at all?”
Before they are ready for the whole world to know about their feelings for one another, however, their secret affair is uncovered, and the young lovers are forced to figure out how to love each other in plain sight or part forever. Because in a rapidly-evolving world, the fastest way to mobilise change is by leading by example, even if it means making history in the process.
“I’ve always thought of myself as a problem that deserved to stay hidden. Never quite trusted myself, or what I wanted. Before you, I was all right letting everything happen to me. I honestly have never thought I deserved to choose. But you treat me like I do.”
Casey McQuiston’s storytelling is bold, fresh, unique, and just stunning. It pulls you in like an undertow and holds you in a spellbinding maelstrom of marvelous prose and heartfelt portrayal of human emotions. I sobbed, I laughed, I swooned, and I fell hard for every. single. thing. about. this. book. A true masterpiece.
“If there’s any legacy for me on this bloody earth, I want it to be true, so I can offer you all of me, in whatever way you’ll have me, and I can offer you the chance of a life.”