American Royals by Katherine McGee presents a new type first family, one that has ruled America since the revolution – the House of of Washington.
What if George Washington accepted a crown? What if his descendants were on the throne today? And, what if, the next in line for the throne was a princess? American Royals by Katherine McGee explores and challenges these “what if” scenarios through the experiences of a new First Family.
Throw the word “royal” in any form of entertainment title, bury it in any description, and the likelihood of me watching or picking it up increase ten-fold. In fact, I treat all Hallmark, Lifetime, and now Netflix movies featuring a royal family as their own genre. Made up countries that miraculously speak English and have someone on the throne struggling to reconcile their modern ideals of love and marriage with traditions passed down through generations are my bread and butter.
Enter American Royals. A novel that touts the idea that George Washington took a crown and left a lineage of rulers watching over the nation presents a lot of interesting questions. How do titles work? What happened to the lines of the other revolutionary heroes? Is the Fourth of July still jam-packed with hot dogs and fireworks, or do we have tea? And, perhaps most pressing of all, WHAT ABOUT HAMILTON?
McGee addresses several of these as she guides readers through the lives of the imagined current royal family. Hamilton does not get made, but another musical takes the stage. Earls and Dukes carry the names of famous cities and colonies of the revolution.
But while the details of how the national identity of American shifts under the monarchy are of interest at the outset, they become less important as readers meet, and become hopelessly attached to, Princesses Beatrice and Samantha, Prince Jefferson, and all those in their orbit.
‘American Royals’ Review
Princess Beatrice is faced with the age-old dilemma of having to rule the country following her grandfather’s decree that the first born of the family (no matter the sex) will inherit the throne. Being thrust into the public eye from the moment of her birth, the entire country, and her family, are wondering who she will choose as her partner on the throne. With very few approved choices, she finds little comfort outside of the tight-knit group of allies she has grown to know in recent years.
Princess Samantha and Prince Jefferson, twins and the well-known “spares” not “heirs” struggle with their connection not only to their family, but the nation. American Royals tackles their internalized inferiority in a way that few other properties have. The burden of living up to or in spite of expectation dominates most royal tales. But the novel does not shy away from the complicated feelings of living with little to no expectations.
While at first I wished the entire novel would be about Beatrice and her journey to ascend the throne, I left the novel wishing the curtain was pulled back a bit more on Samantha’s life. She is free-spirited, fierce, and exhibits an anxiety that is not only relatable but entirely raw and humanizing. Her connection with Beatrice and her father present some of the best character growth that occurs over the timeline of the story. Something that deeply resonated with me was watching her struggle with feeling trapped by a duty to no one.
Being a twin, being a royal, being a daughter of a nation are all titles that don’t fulfill her need to be seen as an individual. The discovery of that identity and the acceptance that she is still working towards it, set Princess Samantha apart as one of my favorite aspects of reading this piece.
Apart from their roles as members of the House of Washington, threads for an illicit romances are STRONG in this novel. In fact, nearly every character experiences a flirtation with the forbidden in some form or another. I realize that may sound overbearing, but rest assured the characters are built out with such unique profiles that you will not feel bogged down by the trope.
The same goes for the cast of supporting characters–love interests, enemies, royal guards. I think the best part of the story, in fact, is how each of these characters knows something deeply intimate about one another. It is in the moments that occur in the privacy of the residence, or stranded in snow storms, that create a level of intimacy that will make you root for the characters in spite of their shortcomings.
The timeline is another great aspect of American Royals. As the novel plays out over a leisurely pace, an event sends the entire story into a state of urgency. There are threads of secrets from the past – namely one twin’s graduation party that also help fold time in on itself. It also justifies the existence of a “villain” who would otherwise feel flat and underserved.
If you are looking for a family to fill your heart after Red, White, & Royal Blue, be sure to check in on the House of Washington in American Royals.