The Royal We was not at all what I expected…and I think I’m okay with that!
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan is supposed to be a Kate Middleton fan fiction. I think that description does this novel, which is actually quite well-written and poignant, a great disservice.
To me, if someone says a novel is a form of fan fiction, I’m immediately expecting something cheesy and over the top. No offence to all the great fan fiction out there (believe me, I enjoy reading some of it), but I’m not expecting a great work of literature when I sit down with something like that. And no, The Royal We isn’t Dickens (nor should it be), but it is definitely more of a contemporary novel than a romance novel, which I feel is an important distinction. When I heard The Royal We was based on the relationship between Kate Middleton and Prince William, I quickly put it on my TBR because I thought it would be an outlandish and adorable chick lit. experience. I was expecting a novel very similar to Emma Chase’s Royally Screwed or to the Netflix movie A Christmas Prince. I certainly was not expecting one that is very deep and thoughtful.
The Royal We is not just steamy sex scenes and insane drama – actually, it doesn’t have much of either of those things at all. It really isn’t even a book about the relationship between Bex Porter and Prince Nicholas of Wales so much as it is a novel about Bex herself, a young woman who is coming of age in extreme circumstances. As readers, we get to know Bex better than any of the other characters, except perhaps for her twin sister, Lacey, and the novel becomes more an examination of what it means to be a young woman in extraordinary conditions, a woman who wants to maintain her identity while still uniting herself in marriage to a strong man.
Isn’t this a very contemporary and relatable situation to be in? I know personally that I think about these sorts of things on a daily basis, particularly now that I am a wife – how can I give myself entirely to my husband and still be my own person? How can I build a career and still be a loving wife and, one day, mother? How can I maintain my sense of self when all of my heart and everything I am is so inextricably tied to another? Of course, Bex’s circumstances are unique in that she must acclimate herself to a royal establishment that has been around for centuries, but fundamentally, her struggles are those of any woman in the 21st century. How do we, as women or as hopeless romantics, maintain a respect for history and tradition and romance while at the same time breaking free of it? It is an interesting question to explore.
Cocks and Morgan do some great work in this novel to try to answer this question, from Bex’s perspective at least, and I was truly not expecting that. I was ready to encounter a pretty flat female character who is all heart-eye emojis for her love interest, but Bex really doesn’t spend too much time fawning over Nick. Instead, she deals (very realistically) with the ups and downs of a human romance, and although not all of her decisions are advisable, they are very genuine. I found myself really liking Bex and really sympathizing with her, which is not something I can say is true of most romance novel heroines I encounter.
Bex’s relationship with her twin sister Lacey is also very well-articulated, and the novel is in many ways more about this unique family dynamic than it is about Bex and Nick. It is fascinating to watch Bex try to navigate her romantic relationship while still maintaining the incredibly close relationship she has always had with her twin – and it is equally fascinating to watch them both realize that their relationship must necessarily evolve as Bex’s romance becomes more serious. This is another very realistic situation to address because so often family relationships must change and adapt as romantic relationships progress, and I for one was impressed with the fact that Cocks and Morgan would choose to handle that issue.
I would compare The Royal We to a novel like Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible, rather than to a straight-up romance like Royally Screwed. It is an adaptation of a well-known story, sure, but it is also a sophisticated novel in many ways, and it is by no means a quick, beach read. There’s a lot more going on below the surface than I think the marketing of this novel suggests, and I for one was pleasantly surprised by that!
The only real issue I had with the novel was its representation of Nick’s mother, Emma. Obviously, she is meant to represent Princess Diana, but in The Royal We, Emma is living and suffers from a crippling mental illness. I think it made sense for Cocks and Morgan to handle the “Princess Diana” character in this way, but I was a bit annoyed by their representation of mental illness. I wasn’t overly fond of Nick’s frequent outbursts that his mother is “mad” and I thought the subject of mental health wasn’t treated deeply enough for it to be included in the novel. What may have been more interesting would have been if Nick’s mother was very present in the novel, especially to underscore the fictional nature of the novel and give the authors a chance to do something a little bit different with the true story. This was the one major flaw for me with the novel, and I wish Emma’s character wasn’t so often dismissed.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed The Royal We and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Eligible and to those who would be interested by a realistic, unvarnished portrayal of what it means to be a royal.
A Few Quotes I Liked:
“Kissing him was pure, ravenous heat, a thousand gigawatts blowing my every fuse.”
“I don’t know why it takes something monumentally destructive to remind you what you want to save.”
“Ten seconds are an eternity when they’re full of dread.”
❥❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)
Girl with a Green Heart