America the Regal: A Review of American Royals by Katharine McGee
I said at the end of the last week’s post that I was going back to basics with this week’s review. You all know I don’t break my promises. But if you thought I was going to talk about a horror story, you would be wrong.
With that, please give a warm welcome to American Royals by Katharine McGee!
Yes, that’s right, break out those tiaras and ballgowns because we got some glitz and glamour to talk about this week. As always a spoiler alert is in order.
Published in 2019, American Royals follows the lives of four young women involved with the royal family in some way shape or form. There is Princess Beatrice Washington, the heir to the American throne and first Queen Regnant-to-be; Princess Samantha Washington, the spare and an all around party girl; Daphne Deighton, the former girlfriend of America’s only prince who she desperately wants to get back together with; and finally there is Nina Gonzalez, Princess Samantha’s best friend and the new girlfriend of the aforementioned Prince Jefferson.
In short, this book is basically a giant love dodecahedron. Each character is in love with someone, and that someone is the ex of another character, they also have a secret relationship with someone else pretty irrelevant to the plot, but are also interested in the person who has a crush on them. There really isn’t anything else going on in this book.
I’m sorry, I don’t have much of a synopsis for this one. American Royals revolves around the love life of each of the four main characters. The only side plot I can think of that’s worth mentioning is fairly stereotypical. It’s just Daphne being a wannabe Regina George.
All the main characters are like that; stereotypes I mean. You have Daphne, AKA the Mean Girl. Princess Beatrice is the Poor Little Rich Girl, and I’ll talk about her in just a little bit. Princess Samantha, as I’ve already mentioned, is the party girl/wild child. And Nina, as the only middle class female character, is obviously the Cinderella of the series; she’s the commoner who is swept up into the world of the royals more than ever before.
Out of these four characters, Beatrice is the worst. The other three are palatable, they’re nothing super interesting, but they also aren’t irritating to read about. Beatrice is supposed to be the main character though, she’s the one McGee wants readers to care about the most, but she’s literally the worst. Beatrice was born into a position of power and privilege, yet she continuously complains about how she doesn’t want the life she does. Listen, I’m fine with her saying she may not want to be queen. I can get behind not wanting that much power, but when she starts to complain about how much her life sucks I just want to smack her.
With her, it’s always “woe is me, I have to attend a ball and get married.” Her complaints are trivial and make her an unlikeable character. McGee is making it harder for readers to relate to her if Beatrice is complaining about things like that. She’s a massive hindrance to this book. Since she’s a princess, readers already have a harder time trying to relate to her based on the world she grew up in. The author has to do something to make her likable. Unfortunately, nothing about Beatrice is likable. All she does in whine and complain about her life.
Now that I have that rant over, let’s continue on. American Royals is pretty simplistic in nature and highly predictable. I feel like you can already guess the entire book with what I’ve told you about the characters and plot so far. Nothing about this book is groundbreaking or new or never before done. The only hook the book really has going for it is that McGee is playing around with history and giving America a royal family.
And I get it. Royalty is intriguing. I find myself watching documentaries on long dead kings and queens all the time. There is just something fascinating about royalty. Sadly, I wasn’t fascinated by the royal family of American Royals.
Part of the reason is because of how heavily stereotyped the characters are. Another part of the reason is because of the lack of plot. And the final part of the reason is because the world building of this America is poorly done.
The book starts with a teeny-tiny prologue about America’s history, and all the backstory readers get is that George Washington was begged to become America’s first king. Now, I’m no American history buff, but I’m pretty sure the public did indeed beg him to the be the first ruler of America. This begging isn’t what I want to complain about though, the begging is the one thing about this version of America’s history that I will accept. This issue is that little tidbit is the only detail readers learn about. I don’t expect 200-years of history dumped on me, no one wants that, but I do expect more details so I know what this world is like. There's nothing though.
If you read this book expect one of two things to happen: you get no details or they are thrown in your face. I got whiplash from details going zero to a hundred. The word “subtlety” is not in McGee’s vocabulary. She tries to be tongue-and-cheek and throws in a few lines about how "funny" it would be if people could vote for the monarch or how "funny" it would be if the monarchy didn’t exist and the ruler was called something else like “president” or something “funny” like that.
McGee does this is other places too. Again, subtlety is not this author’s specialty. The worst time was when McGee included a conversation between Beatrice and her father regarding slavery and how horrible it was. The whole conversation is extremely heavy-handed. Like no shit, slavery was horrible, it should have never happened, you don’t have to tell that to readers. And if you’re going to bring it up, then at least give the conversation some nuance. As it stands, the conversation offers nothing to the plot and its just McGee saying “slavery was bad.” Again, no shit. Was this supposed to show readers how great of a queen Beatrice will be because she thinks slavery was one of the worst things to happen in American history? Because all this conversation shows is that Beatrice has the tiniest grain of common sense.
Yet I somehow found myself enjoying this book. I think sometimes you just need to read a trashy novel, and this was that novel for me. I love me some royalty themed reads. American Royals isn’t going to win any awards for what it has to say, but I can see it winning a fan favorite award.
Do not read this book if you want the next Jane Austen, only read this book if you want something extremely light-hearted and just want to read for the sake of reading. Sometimes that’s all you want or need. And that's what I wanted this week. It made me feel like I was back in middle school when I devoured a new book nearly every single night. I missed that feeling, and appreciate that American Royals gave me that feeling.
Next week I’ll be covering a new release that was ever so kindly sent to me by St. Martin’s Press. So until then, I bid you adieu! Stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask, and read some good books for me!