What if George Washington had become a king, rather than a president? Katherine McGee built her new alternate history novel, American Royals, on this idea.
I started and finished American Royals in 24 hours. It was addictive, like a good romantic comedy. I enjoyed it in the same way I enjoy every romantic comedy centered around royalty — it was entertaining, engaging, and fun. It kept me invested.
The story switches POVs frequently, between different members of the American royal family and their close friends. The different POVs give a more romcom-esque feel, where we can find out secrets from one POV that another POV has no clue about. Sometimes, multi-POV books can make a story feel empty and make me want to focus on one persons’s storyline, but that didn’t happen with American Royals — I was invested in them all.
Sure, there may have been a character I absolutely hated and a couple of frustrating moments, but that means McGee did a good job of making her characters realistic. If I can hate one of them, it means there was enough depth for me to decide they were worth my hatred.
I feel like if you haven’t gotten the alternate history “what if America had a royal family” aspect of this book yet, there’s nothing I can do for you. McGee explains in the prologue and at some points in the actual story what parts of our history have stayed the same and what parts have changed. She chooses a few ripple effect changes, as well, which I appreciate — since America without the President would definitely have worldwide implications.
Honestly, I quite liked the interwoven plot of this teen drama with a political backdrop. It wasn’t an epic — there were no world-ending stakes — but it kept me hooked and I will absolutely be buying the second book as soon as it comes out — oh, did I not mention that this is the first in a series? Honestly, when I found out it wasn’t a standalone I was a bit disappointed (the advanced copy has no mention of a series) but I loved getting lost in this story, so I’ll allow it.
Sure, there were some areas that were a little cringey, like how McGee included little bits of awkward “what if America had created a democracy, instead?” commentary a few times. Or when the same character ran away from love for the same reason, over and over again. Or when, just like in every romantic comedy ever, everything involved a miscommunication. I guess it’s to be expected, when dealing with royalty and the paparazzi.
Overall, though, this was an extremely fun and easy summer read. I’m used to high stakes fantasy, and this was such a refreshing change. The world isn’t ending, no one is ‘the chosen one’ (well, unless you could being in like for the throne, but that’s not an ancient prophecy or magical phenomenon), and the characters aren’t constantly fighting for survival.
I do love historical AUs, too, and this one was especially fun. I’ve always found American history exceedingly boring, and this alternate universe version made it seem more fun — the parts that McGee kept the same, anyhow. She did sprinkle bits of history throughout the book, whether to make a point of how different they are in the book or noting what had stayed the same even through her alternate timeline.
I would recommend American Royals to anyone looking for a light, fun read this summer (or, uh, Fall). This read was genuinely enjoyable, in the same way that watching a sitcom or romantic comedy is comfortable and simple.