Red, White & Royal Blue

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Name: Red, White & Royal Blue
Abbreviation(s): RWARB, RWRB
Creator: Casey McQuiston
Date(s): May 2019
Medium: Novel
Country of Origin: USA
External Links: Goodreads Page
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Red, White & Royal Blue is M/M new adult romance novel. It was author Casey McQuiston's first novel.

The novel follows British prince Henry Fox-Mountchristen-Windsor and Alex Claremont-Diaz, the son of the first female American President, as they gradually get over their animosity for each other and fall in love.

Although the novel is an original work, its writing style and use of tropes generated much speculation that it might have been fanfiction with the serial numbers filed off.

A small fandom sprang up around the novel's characters, generating many fanworks.

A live action adaptation was announced in 2019[1]; in October 2021, Matthew Lopez was announced as director.[2] The news prompted a renewal of interest in the fandom.


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

When his mother became President, 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 the 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 family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable 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 campaign and upend two nations and begs 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?

Casey McQuiston's Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn't always diplomatic.

Original Work or Fanfiction?

When the synopsis for the book was released, people in fandom quickly began noting that many aspects of it were strongly reminiscent of fanfic and fanfic tropes. This was confirmed by readers of the book--for better or for worse!

It reads like fanfic: full of feels, all about that character development, and lots of *canoodling*. Indeed, if Rainbow Rowell's Carry On and The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan had a baby, it would be Red, White, and Royal Blue.

Bethany D. netgalley review, 2019[3]

It reads like Harry Styles/Louis Tomlinson fanfiction written by someone who gets all of the angst but none of the mechanics.

Goodreads review, 2019[4]

I've only read the first chapter so far and it was so obvious that the author wrote fic. The rest of the book might not be as blatant, but it didn't take long at all to pick up on it.

Things that read as giveaways: the pacing, amount of dialogue, and type of banter feel like a million popular slash fics. Meeting the characters felt more like a fanfic where the author assumes you know who these people are already, rather than giving a lot of history or physical description. Same with the worldbuilding: The first chapter is about the US president's son going to a royal wedding where he sees his rival, the prince, and little time is spent on the royal wedding itself or the supporting characters one might find at such a gathering or the political dynamics or anything else, it's just the main character being reminded he has to go to the royal wedding this weekend, and then thinking about how much he hates his rival and then they're meeting and bantering again. Everything else about the circumstances of the wedding feel packed into a paragraph or two.

I know it's a romance novel and so the OTP getting together is the main point, but it feels strongly like an AU where the worldbuilding is secondary and we're getting just enough details to make the setting work and explain what everyone's role is (like the character who's a superhero in canon is now a non-powered prince, etc.).

anon at FFA, 2019[5]

Simplistic characterisation with shallow motivations made some of the climactic scenes read like bad fanfiction.

Review by Astra, 2019[6]

u mentioned casey mcquiston... i’m gonna be honest, reading red white & royal blue i got the vibe that it was originally a fanfic and she just changed the names?? like it really just read like a Really Good ao3 fic, with the dialogue and the descriptions and everything. it also had smut which... i associate with fanfic only skfjdnkxj. but am i the only person who [thinks] that?

i’ve read my fair share of new adult books so smut isn’t really something i associate with fanfic (and the smut in rwrb has almost no ~erotic~ description—it’s almost entirely emotional/sensual in its flow), but rwrb does have certain elements to it that are in line with what people love about fanfic! i think that speaks more to the quality of those god tier fanfics because honestly there is some shit i’ve read that is absolutely good enough to be published. casey’s style in rwrb is extremely attentive to detail in the way that fanfic tends to be, but for me it comes down to the timeline! setting the book firmly in 2020 and cementing the setting with cultural references does give it a fanfic vibe, but i just think that’s because the characters are Real Young People. they are so fleshed out and written with so much love and intimate detail that it caters to that same fulfillment that fanfic provides. [...]

bipercabeth reply to anon ask, 2020[7]

You're not missing anything. It reads like bad fanfiction, and unfortunately so many people out there spend their days on AO3 that editors are happy to publish any kind of fanfiction, even the very bad kind like this book.

orange_lizard423 on r/books, 2021[8]

This naturally led to questions of whether or not the book had originally been a fanfiction that was pulled to publish and had the serial numbers filed off.


After reading the synopsis, many mistook it for other popular fanfics that follow a character's romance with modern royalty, such as Modern Royal Family AUs which were common in Merlin fandom. Some specific works mentioned were Drastically Redefining Protocol and Anarchy in the UK (which had already been re-published with the serial numbers filed off).

For example:

so I started Red White and Royal Blue like I said, and I’m only 40 pages in but it’s reminding me SO MUCH of a 2011 modern!AU merthur fic

not always a specific one, although having said that, there is one particular part that is just like The Student Prince. Both scenes are of the MC realising that their rival/future love interest prince is softer than they had realised.

From RWRB:

He’s rumpled and half-awake, shoulders slumping as he yawns. He’s standing in from of Alex wearing not a suit, but a heather-grey T-shit and plaid pajama bottoms. He had earbuds in, and his hair is a mess. His feet are bare.

He looks, alarmingly, human.

From TSP:

“And it’s cheating because you don’t look like a shallow, smug, mean-spirited bastard when you’ve got fare beet. Bare feet, I mean. You look all cuddly and likeable and human.” He sighed. He felt cold, and tired, and his head hurt, and he would really like the room to stop spinning. “I liked it more when I thought you might be nice,” he said in a very small voice. “Before I met you.”

tell me there are not parallels here!!!

satoshihiwatari, 2019(?)[9]

I swear this book must have some BBC Merlin fanfiction somewhere in its DNA; I’m not saying it’s BBC Merlin fic with the serial numbers filed off, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the author’s enjoyed some Merthur before.

eeddis, 2020[10]

Others mentioned The Social Network, speculating that the author was a writer in the fandom:

some of my mutuals finding out that rwrb was a social network fanfiction this week is so funny to me

no bc i really thought we all knew this its so funny

casey mcquiston wrote a royal au of andrew garfield and jesse eisenberg falling in love and it was on ao3

@ardentlys, Oct 2, 2021[11]

The conclusion that the writer came from a fannish background is also supported by the references to fandom in the book and McQuiston's positive interactions with fandom.

Still, most fans eventually agreed that if the book had been a fanfiction, no one had seen it published online, and it had been changed enough that the fandom was not recognizable.

my review of the book is this: it is noticeably written by a tumblr user who started out writing fanfic, and it is up to you if that’s something you enjoy or not

queentrogdor, July 2020[12]

i’ve watched so many interviews of casey talking about how the idea for the book came to them, and as someone who has 100% taken a fanfic outline and turned it into original fiction, it didn’t really come across to me that way? i 100% see what you’re saying, but to me it reads like the work of someone who discovered writing through fanfic. the stylistic choices are all there, just with original characters

bipercabeth, 2020[13]

It is very very obviously written by someone who has written (or at least read) a lot of fic but I'm pretty sure it's not any one specific thing

every single woman in it is so deeply a canon significant other rewritten as a kickass lady with no actual life of her own from 2012

@duckgirlie, Oct 3, 2021[14]

This didn't stop the rumor about RW&RB being directly-repurposed fanfiction from resurfacing regularly.




Alex/Henry, the canon ship, is unsurprisingly the juggernaut pairing with close to 1500 works as of Sept 2021.

This was more than 14x the amount of works of the next two popular pairings:

Example Fanworks

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.





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