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Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Casey McQuiston’s Red, White, and Royal Blue is the gay romance novel we’ve all been waiting for. Red, White, and Royal Blue is the story of two young men, each struggling to uphold the image of his country. The story is told from the perspective of Alex, the biracial son of the President of the United States (who happens to be a woman, by the way). Alex is handsome, charming, and politically gifted. His image is perfect for his mother, especially as she approaches her reelection campaign. His life is practically perfect, except for one thing. Across the Atlantic lives his arch-nemesis, Prince Henry of England. Alex sees Henry as everything he hates: a stuffy, rude, and undeniably stuck-up monarch. When the two get involved in a small physical altercation at an important event, relations between the US and Britain devolve, as do the reputations of their leaders.

In an attempt to salvage the relationship between the United States and Britain, Alex’s mother, the President, and Henry’s grandmother, the Queen, order them to spend time together, and at least pretend to be friends. Although the relationship begins as a painfully forced PR stunt, the two gradually become close.  The two struggle with what is an undeniable physical attraction and Alex finds himself hurtling into a dangerous and exciting romance. At the core of the conflict is Alex’s belief that his bisexuality will compromise his own career and end his mother’s reelection bid. For Henry, the crown has made it clear he is not to be himself.  Much of the tension in the novel comes from their secrecy and delight and their daring to love. 

I found this novel to be riveting. McQuiston manages the perfect balance between romance and comedy, and we fall in love with her characters just as they fall in love with each other. The love scenes within the book are sexy and risque for a mainstream novel. In addition to their complicated stories, McQuiston’s cast of secondary characters are surprising, relatable, and dynamic. Red, White, and Royal Blue is enthralling, smart and timely. I could not put it down. 

Published in 2019 by St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Red, White, and Royal Blue can be found at local bookstore Phoenix Books.

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur’s The Sun and Her Flowers is a book of poetry about heartbreak and the growth that stems from it. The Sun and Her Flowers is Kaur’s second book. Her first, Milk and Honey, was published in 2015. Her poems are short, usually taking up only a fraction of each page. Almost every poem is accompanied by an illustration, also drawn by Kaur. Her message is often simple and sad, exposing her misfortunes from past relationships. However, she eventually delivers inspiration to her readers when her tone brightens as she recalls goodness in her past. Her work delivers poetry in an uncomplicated, accessible way. 

The Sun and Her Flowers, although accessible and somewhat relatable, lacks depth. Kaur has some moments that shine with creativity and individuality, but for the most part, her poems are formulaic and repetitive. Her words are filled with anger and blame, saddened by the experiences she had. The poems with the most spark, however, are those speaking about her culture and childhood. Her happier poems were interesting when I read them, and I could see the spirit going into each one. However, the poems about loss and sadness were so simple that they hardly meant anything, some of them being only a sentence long.

Kaur’s poetry is not bad. In fact, it serves a good purpose. Those who have never read poetry before can read her work and understand it immediately. Her book is pretty, and the aesthetic is appealing. However, her work does not match up to that of the greater poets of our time. I fear that the popularity of The Sun and Her Flowers is due more to its Instagram potential than its content. I would recommend this book to someone who has never read poetry before, but for a more experienced reader, there are better poems out there.

Published in 2017 by Andrew McMeel publishing. The Sun and Her Flowers can be found at local bookstore Barnes and Noble.

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