Review: The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

theroyalwe22875451Review: The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan
Source: Digital galley courtesy of Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley. Thank you!
Expected Publication: April 7, 2015 by Grand Central Publishing
Verdict: Okay/Good

Book Description:

“If I’m Cinderella today, 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 was always the romantic, the one who daydreamed of being a princess. But it’s adventure-seeking Bex who goes to Oxford and meets dreamy Nick across the hall – and thus Bex who accidentally finds herself in love with the eventual heir to the British throne. Nick is everything she could have imagined, but Prince Nicholas has unimaginable baggage: grasping friends, a thorny family, hysterical tabloids tracking his every move, and a public that expected its future king to marry a native. On the eve of the most talked-about wedding of the century, Bex reflects on what she’s sacrificed for love — and exactly whose heart she may yet have to break.

I have long been a fan of Go Fug Yourself, the authors’ popular celebrity fashion ribbing website. I also very much enjoyed their YA novels, Spoiled and Messy. When I read that Cocks and Morgan were coming out with a contemporary adult novel- inspired by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge romance- I was eager to read. And while The Royal We has most all of the ingredients suited for a perfect out-of-a-fairytale rom-com, I found the novel missing a certain spark.

Perhaps what threw my reading enjoyment the most of this novel was the fact that the two main characters, Bex and Nick, weren’t fully realized as people. Yes, we follow them over the years, from college and beyond, and witness them change; in spite of these changes they still read as hazy to me. Meanwhile, the other characters- their friends Cilla and Gaz, Nick’s delightful brother Freddie, and even Bex’s parents – are much more rooted. Since we’re following Bex’s and Nick’s relationship for more than seven years and over 450 pages, I was craving a better sense of what made them tick and what truly was keeping them together beyond their physical attraction. I enjoyed more the warmth given to the supporting characters, particularly the disarming and charming Freddie (maybe my favourite?), and Bex’s wonderfully supportive parents. They are written with such love, humour and effervescence- I could have easily done with more of those characters than so many of the less important tertiary characters! One thing I wish as well, given that Bex’s parents were written so well, is that certain royal family members- most especially Queen Eleanor and Prince Richard (Nick’s father)- had been made less flat and two-dimensional. (A side note here: the Queen’s mom, on the other hand, was one of the few characters that really made me laugh out loud. She makes like Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love, stealing every scene she’s in).

I was personally not as swept up in the romance of Nick and Bex as much as I (really) wanted to be; in fact, at certain points in the novel, I wanted to tell Bex to run far, far away from the palace. It also didn’t help that for a chunk of the novel, directly leading up the hotly anticipated wedding of the century, Nick disappears (to the navy). Bex is left alone to lose her sense of self and her peace of mind. What follows is a rather gloomy and arguably disheartening period in the novel during which Bex is being essentially stripped of her former fun, ponytail, jeans-wearing self, and re-made into a clean, armpit-Botoxed (seriously?!) public and palace appropriate version of herself. Rather than thinking, “ooh fun, a makeover a la Miss Congeniality,” I was just left thinking, “ew…..no.” It left me feeling a bit sad, to be honest! (And, to be fair, maybe that was the point?…).

I think some of what may be hindering my total enjoyment of and immersion in this novel lies in what I take away from it; especially after the slightly rushed ending and ultimate decision that both Bex and Nick make about their relationship and future. Is it about love conquering all- are we to believe that this beautiful and genuine love between Bex and Nick can truly survive a restrained, heavily observed life, where Bex- as an ‘outsider’ and American- is seen as never quite enough? Or is this a rags to riches story – should I be moved by how romantic it is to think a nice, unassuming girl from North America sweeps a kind, thoughtful Prince off his feet? Will they live happily ever after- and does it matter if they do or do not?

My critiques of the novel aside, I do think that The Royal We definitely holds appeal for those readers on the lookout for a lightly romantic contemporary read- and for those that enjoy following the royals, their fashion, their scandals, their romances, their stories. Those itching for something a bit more adult-oriented than, for instance, The Princess Diaries, might also be drawn to this novel. But for me, series such as The Princess Diaries, or films such as The Prince and Me or What a Girl Wants have a bit more of that frothiness and fairy tale quality that I personally felt was needed here.

I received this book as a digital galley from Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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