5 Stars · Book Reviews · Reading · romance

Book Review: “Red, White, & Royal Blue”

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Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
St. Martin’s Griffin, 2019
Romance
448 pages
5/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: Sex, drunkenness, talk of drug addiction

GoodReads Synopsis:

What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with an actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex/Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of the family and state and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: Stage a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instagrammable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the presidential campaign and upend two nations. It raises the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through?

Review:

I’d been hearing about this book for literal years, but I’d always hesitated to read it, because I usually think of my ideal genre as “badass women. That’s it.” I also sort of feel like gay relationships can be idealized and gay characters can easily be caricatures or stereotypes instead of well-rounded characters. So, for a while, I stayed away from it.

And then, I received a copy in the mail as a random act of kindness, started a book club with a few friends from home, and we decided to read it.

And ya’ll… I’m so mad at myself for staying away for so long. The story is heartfelt, the characters are lovable and fully rounded out, the banter is unbeatable, the romance is steamy… and yes, even though the love story didn’t include any badass women, there were still some very badass women featured as characters.

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it also felt so good to be represented, not in a tragic, sad coming out story, (I’m looking at you, The Happiest Season.) but in a joyful romantic comedy. I’ve devoured rom-coms since I was a kid, and for the first time, I really saw a LGBTQ+ couple represented. This book felt like a love letter to the LGBTQ+ community.

One of my favorite parts of reading is when you get so engrossed in a book, you really are absorbed into the story. You stay up late reading, when you’re not reading, you can’t stop thinking about the book, you tell everyone to read it, you laugh out loud at the funny parts, cry at the sad parts, etc. That’s how it felt with this book. I was so enamored with everything about it, and it felt like I couldn’t stop singing its praises.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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4 stars · Book Reviews · Lifestyle · literary fiction · Reading · romance

Book Review: “Crazy Rich Asians”

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Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Doubleday, 2013
Literary Fiction / Romance
403 pages
4/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: Mentions of suicidality and infidelity, harassment.

GoodReads Synopsis:

Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back.

Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich

Review:

I actually received this book during my Cousins’ Secret Santa gift exchange in 2019 (thanks, Tina!) after seeing and loving the movie. I finally got around to reading it when I was doing a read-a-thon last month that required I read a book starting with a ‘C’ or a ‘G’, and I’m glad I did!

I really loved this book, and I loved how closely the movie followed the book! Obviously there were a few differences, but while reading the book, I could visualize the movie so well.

One thing I absolutely loved about the book was how supportive Nick was. One thing that bothers me in a lot of romance books is how the male lead can be possessive, or put his own interests before his partner. Nick was, quite frankly, the perfect partner. He put Rachel’s wellbeing before his own, did what was good for her, not what was good for him or their relationship. I absolutely fell hell over heels in love with the man.

Another thing I really appreciated was how much deeper Michael’s issues with Astrid and her family went. In the movie, it is shown that he is having an affair because of his insecurities and dissatisfaction with their marriage. In the book however, oh, it’s so much worse.

If you don’t want to be spoiled, I recommend you stop reading now.

Okay. So. Michael basically stages an affair to get out of his marriage. Like “the other woman” was actually his cousin and they set it up to make it look like they’re having an affair. Personally, I think that’s even worse than having an affair because of the effort he put in to hurting Astrid. Reading about it was absolutely wild.

One thing I liked better in the movie, though, was the ending. The movie ends with Nick and Rachel reuniting and celebrating their engagement with their families and friends with his mother’s blessing and ring The book, however, ended with some uncertainty, which I think is more realistic. After everything that his family had put her through, I can understand why Rachel wouldn’t want to jump right back into the relationship.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book! It made me want to travel to Asia, and find me a man like that Nick Young.

If you’d like to purchase this book for yourself, please consider purchasing from an independent bookstore, or if that isn’t possible for you, please consider using my Amazon Affiliate Link.

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Book Review: “One Day in December”

One Day in December by Josie Silver

Genre: Romance, Seasonal

Summary:

Two people. Ten chances. One unforgettable love story.

Two people. Ten chances. One unforgettable love story.

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away.

Certain they’re fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn’t find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they “reunite” at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It’s Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.

What follows for Laurie, Sarah and Jack is ten years of riendship, heartbreak, missed opportunities, roads not taken, and destinies reconsidered. One Day in December is a joyous, heartwarming and immensely moving love story to escape into and a reminder that fate takes inexplicable turns along the route to happiness.

From JosieSilver.com

A few weeks before Christmas, this book kept showing up alllll over my Instagram feed. Everyone seemed to be currently reading it, or had already read and loved it. In fact, I saw one woman I follow mention that this book played a part in her now-fiancé’s proposal? When I saw that, I decided I had to know what the fuss was all about, and bought it.

Maybe it’s because I’m just super basic, but anything that takes place in London in the 2000s immediately reminds me of Love Actually. Not that that’s a bad thing. Or a good thing. Okay, I am a little embarrassed by it, it’s fine.

The beginning scene is fantastical enough to make you kind of scoff… but also immediately turn the page and continue reading. We’re introduced to our heroine, Laurie, as she sits on a bus in London, and makes eye contact with her soulmate: a man who sits at the bus stop outside. She immediately knows he’s her soulmate, and the reader watches as he seemingly realizes it too, and tries to make his way onto the bus, but to no avail. The bus and Laurie drive off, leaving her dream man alone in the snow.

When Laurie returns home, she immediately does the logical thing that almost every woman would do: she tells her best friend. Sarah and Laurie have been roommates for years, and now are as close as sisters. Laurie tells Sarah about the man, and Sarah, in true best friend fashion, laments with her, and the two spend the next year looking for Laurie’s soulmate.

And they find him! But… not in the way Laurie would hope for at all. The following year, Sarah introduces Laurie to her new boyfriend, Jack, who is (unbeknownst to Sarah) the man Laurie saw on the bus. Thus begins a decade of love, loss, and friendship for Laurie, Jack, and Sarah. I pretty much knew how the book would end the moment I began reading it, but what was in the middle of the story was a complete surprise to me.

I usually find stories like this to be a little tricky. I don’t like stories that pit friendship against “true love”. But, I was pleasantly surprised with how One Day in December went about telling Jack and Laurie’s story.

I never disliked Sarah, who Jack initially dated, and neither did Laurie. Laurie put her friendship with Sarah before any perusal of a relationship with Jack. For the most part. Except for the scene (and this is a minor spoiler!) where Jack kisses her because she’s upset and then they decide not to tell Sarah. That part pissed me off.

While Laurie always does love Jack, I appreciated how her life didn’t always revolve around him. There were times when she loved him as a friend, or as a brother, and she was seeing other people. Of course those were the times when Jack was head over heels in love, which further proves my point that men are stupid.

Another part that kind of made me mad was the fact that (another spoiler!) Sarah didn’t go to Laurie’s wedding because she had just found out that she and Jack kissed? I didn’t find that to be very believable. The Sarah I had gotten to know would have done, and did do anything for Laurie. And I understand that Sarah was upset, and really, who wouldn’t be in that situation? But she was dating and in love with someone else, and it was literally right before Laurie’s wedding. Obviously Laurie had moved on, and regretted not coming clean sooner. I didn’t buy it that Sarah would abandon Laurie on her wedding day. Nope. Not even a little bit.

I also wasn’t the biggest fan of how the book handled Oscar, Laurie’s partner in the book. It felt like his purpose was just to be an obstacle to Laurie and Jack being together. I also think that Laurie was able to get to know herself and what she wanted from life after being with him. But the whole relationship felt bizarre to me. Oscar and Laurie met on vacation and pretty much had a whirl-wind, fantastical romance. It didn’t feel real when I was reading about it. I liked Oscar, and his final scenes seemed to be out of character. He demanded that Laurie make these huge life changes for him, when he had never been like that before? It just felt strange to me.

Which leads me to Jack. Honestly, I think that Jack is probably the most realistic portrayal of a man in a romance book that I’ve ever read. Maybe to its detriment. When I’m reading a romance book, I don’t really want to be reminded that men ain’t shit. There were times when, honestly, Jack was a dick. When Laurie asked if he remembered seeing her on the bus, he lied. He was in a relationship with Sarah when Laurie asked him, and he pretty much gaslit her and was like “nah girl, you crazy.” Part of me gets it, like he was in a relationship with Sarah, so it would have been kind of weird to admit, but also… what’s stopping them from having an honest, adult conversation about it? This scene also hurts my heart a bit, because it shows that he was still hung up on the fantasy of Laurie, and that Sarah would always come second to her. Sarah didn’t deserve that.

But then everything is forgiven in the last… fifty or so pages of the book. I swear, the ending is absolutely magical, and made me believe in the power of love again. Most of the problems I had with the book were wiped away because of this ending. It was big and extravagant and satisfying, and honestly, I will recommend this book to the entire world, just so everyone gets to experience it.

If you’d like to purchase this book for yourself, please consider purchasing from an independent bookstore, or if that isn’t possible for you, please consider using my Amazon Affiliate Link below!

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.