Red, White, and Royal Blue and One Last Stop

Monday, September 13, 2021

Red, White, and Royal Blue
Casey McQuiston, 2019

One Last Stop
Casey McQuiston, 2021

Hi! Not dead, still reading, but parenting a toddler while holding a full-time job during a pandemic has made it hard to do anything that feels nonessential like write reviews. But my inability to adequately review Red, White, and Royal Blue led into this hiatus, so I'm hoping having recently read One Last Stop will get me out.

Both of these were wonderful. They have some of the characteristics I now associate with my favorite romance: a world that feels real-ish, but just a little warmer and better than real, where life isn't easy, but good things happen to people who are being their best selves. That's on top of great characters and relationships, of course.

How do I review a book that was like an incredibly sweet warm hug with several hefty cups of wish fulfillment tempered with a few tablespoons of realism and just a pinch of panic attack? (That last bit isn't the book's fault, as I'll explain in a minute.) Red, White, and Royal Blue is an absolute delight. 

I didn't need to read the author's note to know they started writing it during 2016 and that some of the plot adjusted based on the events of that year. It reads like a therapeutic exercise that we all need. In the book's world (inspired by reality but heavily fictionalized), a Democratic Hispanic divorcee from Texas won the presidency in 2016, and the book centers on her college-age son working for her reelection campaign. He and the similarly aged Prince of Wales go from frenemies to friends to more over the course of the book and have to navigate their relationship around the politics of both countries. 

Reading about the 2020 election in the book, despite being very different from reality, did make me incredibly tense. But the book overall is a heartfelt and touching portrayal of America (and Britain) as it ought to be. 

Meanwhile, One Last Stop functions on both a smaller scale (politically, geographically) and larger scale (temporally, paranormally). College girl moves to New York City and falls hard for a cute girl she meets on the subway. Like a million stories in the city, right? Only the cute girl has been somehow trapped in stasis on the subway since 1976. 

This book was at once a sweet and wonderful love story, a profile of a young woman learning to open herself up to others, and a supernatural investigation. Plus, it's a loving and beautiful portrait of the LGBT community in NYC, both in the '70s and now. The parallels and differences between Jane's life in the '70s and August's new family of friends in the '10s don't need to be overtly spelled out, but they run under the narrative, grounding it by illuminating the ways history is both present and forgotten. 

Both of these books were just wonderful and I recommend them to all. 

5 Stars - Awesome Books

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