American Royals by Katherine McGee
🌺🌺.5 out of 5
What if America hadn’t gone the radical route of elected government officials and democracy, and instead had offered George Washington a crown and he had inexplicably taken it?
This is the intriguing alternate history of a world that could have been, with the royal siblings—Crown Princess Beatrice, twins Samantha and Jefferson—and their friend Nina, navigating the world of love, romance, expectations and social media.
It’s very gossipy and filled with the glitz, glamor, gossip and grit of the royalty and celebrity worlds, with everything we obsess about in celebrities transformed into the aristocracy.
While I did enjoy the storyline and the characters—I really, really enjoyed the characters, although Beatrice got on my nerves for transforming from dutiful future monarch into a love-struck brat—I wished that the world had been better developed.
Seriously, do not go into this for the world-building.
It’s alternate history, but in a world that is still based on the history that had gone before.
And because of that, I had some serious problems with this alternate history.
In this world, the major monarchies still rule—the Hanovers, the Bourbons, the Romanovs, etc—and apparently the world wars never happened thanks to a world-wide peace pact signed in 1895. This take on history—that the democratic and communist revolutions would never have happened without the American Revolution—is fascinating, flawed and very, very scary.
Okay, so this is essentially Gossip Girl with royalty.
Hear me out.
This book absolutely ignores the consequences and rippling aftereffects of colonialism and imperialism, and puts the evil eye on the power of representative government.
Basically—monarchy good, rule of the people bad.
The book ignores all of the horrific things done by monarchs (in the real world and also in the past before the timelines split) with the blithe observation that a benevolent monarchy is good because well, those people are good and meant to rule. Divine right, right?
Also, the thing that really, really bothered me throughout this entire book was the absolute lack of slavery or American Indians.
Apparently, America exists and is divided into duchies instead of states, with a reach that seems to go all the way to the west coast (with a slight nod to Spanish and French colonization in the naming), but there’s not really much history covered than that?
The fact that George Washington was a slave owner was not mentioned a single time.
Slavery was not mentioned a single time.
There was not a single Black character in this entire book (that I noticed, I could be wrong).
The colonization of America and the genocide of American Indians was not mentioned. With an alternate history like this, with duchies instead of states, you’d have thought there would have been a mention of tribes or communities or something of how the European colonizers interacted with indigenous Americans, right? Wrong.
There were only two prominent characters of color in the book, and one was in a coma the entire time. The other—Nina—was a diversity checklist of a Hispanic (not Latinx) girl with burnished sienna skin who had queer moms. While I’m glad for the representation, it was tokenization.
Adding to the cringe factor were the fact that she and Samantha had matching Chinese character tattoos for friendship, which was apparently not cultural appropriation because Nina had extensively researched the character to learn its nuance. But still.
I’m probably reading too much into this, but I was hoping for more.
I did enjoy the storyline and was entertained—mostly because I’m trash for all things royal and I have no shame about it—even if the alternate history aspect was deeply troubling and not well thought out.
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
American Royals releases from Random House 3 September 2019