American Royals by Katherine McGee

The Washingtons have ruled America for almost 250 years.

They’re gorgeous, fiercely famous and the beating heart of the most glorious royal court in the world. 

But behind the glittering ballrooms, elegant gowns, and seemingly perfect public personas lie forbidden romances and scandalous secrets. Together four young women will navigate gossip, drama, and the eyes of the world upon them. 

There’s everything to play for – but there can only be one queen.

I bought American Royals in an attempt to get out of a little bit of a reading rut. This recent release and NYT bestseller is set in an alternate universe where America established its own monarchy after the revolution, and I hoped for fanficcy drama and nothing too serious from its £0.99 price tag.

In some ways, American Royals does deliver. It’s Gossip Girl meets The Crown by way of a K-Drama. Everything is about romance and forbidden loves. The villain is entirely villainous, tossing her perfectly coiffed hair and laughing maniacally (metaphorically, at least). Subtle and unpredictable are not the book’s strong points.

However, although the book is pretty unputdownable, it doesn’t actually deliver on its fun promises. The one thing you expect from a book like this is ridiculous drama, but it mostly just… doesn’t happen. The threat of drama is there, but it’s never fulfilled, even though one girl literally makes out with her sister’s (aka the heir to the throne’s) fiancé in a closet in the middle of their ENGAGEMENT PARTY. I kept thinking “ooo, the press will definitely overhear this or get a photo of this and it’ll change anything,” but they never did. Incriminating things happen, but they’re never really used in the story. One character gives a long rant confessing all her sins twice, first in a bathroom and then in a cab. Does anyone overhear? Record it? Use it against her? You’d assume they would, for dramatic plot reasons, but they don’t.

And this is a book that you cannot take seriously. It becomes too troubling if you do, because it has weird world building, to say the least. It feels like it’s based on a very self-congratulatory version of American history rather than actual history, and the less Gossip Girl the story is, the less it can get away with that. The book suggests that if the US had not ended its revolution with a democracy, other countries, like France and Russia, would never have had their revolutions at all — because they were entirely inspired by the US’s example. This is really overstating the US’s impact on the French Revolution, and straight-up inventing a connection with the Russian one. Altogether, it had an annoying undercurrent of “America is the best; we lead and others follow.”

It did make me want to read a serious consideration of this set-up and how an American monarchy would have impacted world history. But this book is definitely not it.

I thought American Royals was a standalone story when I picked it up, but this is really just part one. No plot threads are resolved in this book. Everyone ends up down on their luck and miserable, plot twists take everyone’s loves away… and then we end the story. Tune in again in late 2020 to find out what actually happens! It irritated me immensely. I felt like I had been sold half a story. It read like someone had just lobbed Act Three off the end of it, rather than like the first story in a series, and I was completely thrown when I realized where it was ending.

That all said, American Royals is enjoyable to read, and I’ll probably check out the sequel when it finally emerges. It’s the sort of book that makes you think “just one more chapter” until the end, and although I found it unsatisfying when I finished it, the read itself was fast and fun. Honestly, if you’re in a reading rut or want something distracting for a long plane journey or the like, American Royals is a fun choice. Just don’t expect the story to have a real ending, and you won’t be disappointed.

What do you think?

%d bloggers like this: