I’m the girl who threw a Disney princess themed party for her friends so we could all watch the royal wedding live (we lived in Beijing at the time so the wedding occurred conveniently during prime time evening viewing hours for us). So of course when I heard about Heather Cock’s and Jessica Morgan’s The Royal We, described by several reviewers on Goodreads as Will and Kate fanfiction, I had to get my hands on a copy.
And fanfiction it was.
“I might be Cinderella today, but I dread who they’ll think I am tomorrow. I guess it depends on what I do next.”
American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it’s Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain’s future king. And when Bex can’t resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.
Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick’s sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he’s fated to become.
Which is how she gets into trouble.
Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she’s sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing
I will start by saying that in spite of the problems I had with this book, it still hooked me enough to keep me up late reading each night for five days straight. Clearly the book had enough merit to it that I wanted to keep going, that said when trying to think of what I wanted to say in this post, a lot of my first thoughts were on the negative. Make of that what you will.
Bex didn’t charm me. Maybe if this book weren’t so clearly based on Will and Kate this wouldn’t have been as big of a problem, but as it was I kept comparing Bex to Kate and finding her sadly lacking. Bex is an American (a source of conflict I think could have been played on more than it was. Also, of course she’s an uncouth American instead of a classy one), who doesn’t care about the monarchy and isn’t awed by royalty, and who enjoys drinking, bad television shows, and casual sex. While I have no doubt that Kate had her university moments, everything I’ve read about her makes it clear that even in college she was composed and well mannered. Aka not Bex. While Bex felt like a real, if flawed person, I never saw why out of everyone he had met the prince would fall for her. Aside from the much stressed point that Bex treats Nick like a normal person and not as a prince like *everyone else does*, she just didn’t come across as that special. That’s even a point Bex makes when she compares herself to her sister – her sister was always good at everything and Bex was always just okay. Which leads to my next point-
I also never felt like we got enough insight into why Bex and Nick were so attracted to each other. It was stressed that Bex treated Nick normally and at the beginning of the book they bond over a bad television show, but beyond an obvious physical attraction to each other (they jump into bed a lot), we didn’t get a good sense of what about each other they liked or what they really had in common. When Bex is reminiscing, she sometimes mentions things like like that she loves how he always burns his toast, and little details like that, but we never see those details, just hear about them. I think part of the problem is that most of the novel Bex and Nick are apart (because drama) and in doing so we lose the opportunity to see them together just being themselves.
Which is tied into the awkward time gaps. The book is split into five sections. The first section focuses on Bex and Nick at university and closes with the sudden realization that they love each other, followed by a quick kiss and then an immediate jump in the sack. The second abruptly jumps in a year and a half later. That’s almost two years of Bex and Nick’s relationship growing that we don’t see. We’re just told it happens, and literally the next thing we see is Bex and Nick at a club pretending not to be dating before they disappear to a bathroom to have sex. We get a great scene where Bex wakes up at the palace (Nick having brought her there drunk after the club) and she meets and has breakfast with Nick and his brother. Then the chapter ends and we suddenly have a time jump of another year. Bex and Nick have been together for 2 1/2 years and we have seen only three scenes of them since they got together – the scene were they confess their love, the scene in the club, and the breakfast bit. That’s it. For 2 1/2 years of a relationship and two of the scenes are focused on how much the two of them want to rip each others clothes off. The book takes place over ten years, so glossing over some time was necessary, but the time we got was all about the drama, rather than about the good, normal parts of the relationship, some of which we really needed in order to see why Bex and Nick were still together.
I really liked the constant pressure from the press throughout the book, that was a note that felt very realistic. What didn’t were Bex’s early reactions to the press once it was revealed that she and Nick were dating. At first, egged on by her attention seeking sister, Bex makes some very dumb moves regarding the press and her position as the girlfriend of the prince. Later on, when Bex is really trying and feeling the pressure from the palace to be the perfect fiancee, was when I felt the use of the press really shined though. Obviously when the crazy American is running around in skimpy clothes and binge drinking because her prince boyfriend dumped her, the press isn’t going to say nice things. That seemed like a pretty duh moment that took Bex a while to grasp. But once she began genuinely trying was when the negative press really began to hit home. Bex’s spiral as a result of her feelings of isolation and loss of self was arguably one of the best moments in the book. I also liked the year leading up to the wedding when Bex was struggling to live up to the palace’s strict standards but feeling like she was never good enough.
Despite not quite believing in their relationship, there was a really nice moment toward the end (which I won’t go into details over because spoilers), where Bex and Nick have to work through a problem and decide if their relationship is worth fighting for. I really liked this moment because the decision to commit to someone knowing you’re both flawed and have made mistakes was a really nice thing to read about. I wish we could have seen more of Bex and Nick working through their problems and becoming a team earlier on, it really would have strengthened the portrayal of their relationship.
I did feel a little cheated at the ending. After all the fanfare we didn’t see the big royal wedding or the fallout from the big climax of the book. It felt like Bex might have taken a big step in terms of maturing and I was sad we didn’t get to see that because even until right up until the ending I didn’t buy Bex as a future queen. She might have been in love with the prince, but she didn’t have an innate royal quality to her and never seemed to develop one.
Overall, yes I enjoyed the book while I was reading it, but I think someone who enjoys romance literature might have enjoyed this more than I did. I also think someone who knows less about Will and Kate would enjoy it more, because although Bex and Nick are based on Will and Kate, they pale in comparison.
Basically, if you can’t tell, I had mixed feelings about this book.
Edit: One thing I did really like was the alternate timeline that they constructed to create an England that had a slightly different set of heirs (see more here) because it was clear they had done their history research.
Stay magical readers!