Scandal, paparazzi and drama, Katherine McGee really knows how to write an enticing romance novel. Both books, American Royals and American Royals 2: Majesty, are glamorous and enchanting. The plot in both books is captivating and page-turning with none-stop scandal. The idea of the United States having a monarchy is absolutely genius as McGee introduces readers to a whole new America. However, some of the characters are annoyingly naïve, something that was borderline unbearable to read at times. It would also have been nice to have more perspectives, especially as side characters in the first book became more involved in the second novel.
Warning: This review contains spoilers.
The first novel follows four girls lives. Beatrice, the next in line for the throne, and her younger sister Samantha, the royal family’s troublemaker. There is Nina, Samantha’s best friend who has known the royal family since she was very young, and Daphne, the Prince of America’s ex, who has a dark past. All of them live very different lives and readers see how their narratives intertwine with each other and how they deal with the problems life throws at them. In both novels we see a very realistic issue that is a big obstacle in the girls lives, boys.
Firstly, the scandal in this series is everything a book nerd needs. In nearly every chapter there is something nail biting happening, which made the book so interesting to read; there was never a boring moment. For example, whenever a character made Daphne angry, she would tell her secret contact in the tabloids a scurrilous story about them. Although McGee made Daphne an unlikeable character, the tension and suspense this character creates brings the books alive and is what makes them so page-turning. In both books, readers see the Royals and highly privileged people under threat from exposure to the tabloids. This is something that is very much real in celebrity culture every day, something that people are intrigued to read about now, which is what makes these books so exciting to read.
Furthermore, the royal sisters, Beatrice and Samantha, are a thoroughly enjoyable read. In the first book, Beatrice is preparing to be the next Monarch by picking a suitor out of the Lord’s of America. However, what makes the choosing process so heart-breaking to read is that Beatrice is secretly in love with her guard, Connor. Readers will be gripping the pages of the book intensely, not knowing whether Beatrice will go with her head and marry Lord Theodore (Teddy) or go with her heart and marry Connor. It is agonisingly interesting to see that McGee has included these conflicting choices for the character, so Beatrice has emotional depth and is not seen to be stereotypically stoic. A choice like this is very realistic and relatable, which is why Beatrice is very interesting to read about.
Likewise, Samantha is such a fun character to read about as her attitude towards her duties and lifestyle are the complete opposite to Beatrice. It is refreshing to read about a character who does not take herself seriously among Beatrice and Daphne, who do. McGee creates a lot of sympathy for Samantha as in the first book she is involved in a love triangle, one that does not go in her favour throughout. In the second book, Samantha has a more successful romantic arc, which is more entertaining to read than her storyline in the first book. It is so nice to see Samantha actually having a genuine love story.
However, Daphne is a character that readers either love or hate. Personally, she is not a favourite of mine as it is uncomfortable to read characters being purposefully malicious to ruin someone’s life for their own gain. McGee makes her the sole catalyst for most of the scandal in the books, which almost creates the same feeling of anticipation similar to watching a reality tv show. For that, I am grateful to McGee because, as mentioned repeatedly, it makes the book enjoyable to read. Daphne is a very persistent character, doing whatever is necessary to get to what she wants, Jeff and the title of ‘Princess’. This is what I found hard to read, seeing how a character’s selfish acts affects the others, who then have very realistic reactions. For example, in the first book, Daphne leaks Nina and Jeff’s relationship to the press and the readers read a breakdown of their relationship and Nina’s life. To read the backlash that Nina receives is quite heart-breaking and definitely a relatable situation.
Which brings us on to the final main character, Nina. There are mixed feelings towards this character, some moments I really like Nina and enjoy reading her perspective. Then there are moments where I find her naïve, which makes her rather annoying. For example, there is a scene in the book where Daphne sabotages Nina’s dress but insists she’s “helping” her, of course Nina believes her. It is frustrating from a reader’s point of view as the intention is very clear for the reader and reading on is the only thing to be done. The interpretation of Nina’s naivety depends on the reader’s own reaction to being in a situation like that, as some may agree with McGee’s portrayal of this character. On the other hand, as mentioned, there are moments where Nina is congenial to read as she is perhaps the most normal out of all the protagonists. Nina is only identified as Sam’s friend and has no royal title or high-status, who just wants to get through college and live her life as normally as she can.
The relationships between these four characters are all unique and can closely resonate with the relationship readers have. Sam and Nina have a very close, ‘best friends’ relationship that nearly everyone can relate to. They laugh together, have sleepovers, go on holiday together, do royal activities with each other, and occasionally fall out. Their friendship is freshening and real to read, making the two characters more loveable. Sam’s relationship with Beatrice, however, is a lot more complicated. Due to Beatrice prioritising her royal duties and having no time to join Sam and Jeff, there is a big rift between the sisters. It is engaging for McGee to subvert the expectation of family relationships. However, the constant cold stand-offs whenever the two meet, in the first book, become quite tedious after a while, you just want them to make up and be sisters.
Furthermore, the theme that royalty is not what the public think it is, runs throughout the entirety of both books. Take Daphne as an example, to the public she is an untouchable figure, the picture of elegance. Although, the readers know all the ‘villainous’ things she has done. It’s the ugly side of royal culture that the public do not see, it is the improper tabloid articles that we see that exposes their supposed “secrets”. It is an appealing theme because it is nothing that relates to our own lives, the fear of public exposure McGee creates in the characters is something new for most readers; it awakens a curiosity.
Another major theme in the book is love, all the girls fall in love and have their own love tragedy. As mentioned before, Beatrice is involved in a saddening love triangle between choosing the best for America or herself. Her sister, Sam, may or may not have fallen for one of the boys involved in Beatrice’s love triangle. Nina and Jeff begin to kindle a romance, only for Daphne to start meddling. Unlike the other theme, love is something that everyone experiences and relates to. What is unusual in which McGee has these two sisters go after the same guy, one to fulfil their duty and the other to fulfil their desires. It is the backbone of the story that teaches the pain of love.
American Royals: Majesty
The lives of these four girls only gets more hectic when the scandal continues, new romances are ignited and the weight of royal duties come crashing down.
The second novel begins six weeks after the sorrowful cliff hanger in book one. Beatrice prepares to take the crown, become Queen of America and is busy planning her wedding to her consort. Sam is participating in a publicity stunt with the Duke of Orange, Marshall, pretending to be in a relationship to mend both their broken hearts. Daphne is still trying to win Jeff and her dark past that is uncovered in the first book, comes back to haunt her. Lastly, Nina is trying to prioritise her student life and attempting to take a step back from the royal life. However, like her best friend, their is a new boy in her life, Ethan (Jeff’s best friend).
The readers see a different side to the characters in this book. The first book acts as an introduction (of sorts) as to who they are, in this book McGee delves deeper into their emotions and character growth more than she did in American Royals. Firstly, Beatrice is more open with what she wants and realises that her relationship with her guard is not the best thing for America. As despairing as it is to read Beatrice break up with Connor, McGee makes up for the heartbreak by treating the reader with a slow burn romance between Beatrice and Teddy. It is adorable to read the moments where they both realise they love each other, for example the first time they tell each other they love each other.
Secondly, Sam has a new man in her life, Marshall. They both start a fake relationship in hopes that it will make their ex’s jealous. As predicted, feelings get involved and similar to Beatrice and Teddy, they realise that they actually like each other. It is pleasing to read Samantha getting a happy love story compared to the suffering she went through with Teddy and Beatrice in the first book. It all begins (for me) when Sam and Marshall kiss at her pool party and claim it is for the publicity. Her best friend, Nina, also experiences a new romance with someone I did not expect, Ethan. It started with Daphne asking Ethan to distract Nina, however, Ethan slowly falls in love with her as he realises she is not the girl he thought she was. In parallel with Sam, it is to one’s liking to read Nina having a problem free relationship with someone.
Having said that, I do not like the way that McGee made the two characters come together. Daphne wants Jeff all her herself so she can win him back and she knows she had Ethan wrapped round her finger, so she makes him distract Nina. I dreaded the moment where McGee would expose the real reason why Ethan one day decided to hang out with Nina, especially when readers see Nina is the reason Ethan is released from Daphne’s spell.
On the other hand, as much as Daphne is not my favourite character out of the four, there is a lot of sympathy to be felt for her towards the end of the book. Daphne is the character who McGee really exposes as readers come to realise that everything she has done has been to please her very strict mother. There is never a moment where her mother is nice to her, she always pressures Daphne to get closer to Jeff for her hubris. At the end of the second book, readers get the sense that Daphne is mentally confused with what she wants and does not want to keep using this ‘bully’ front anymore. Jeff asks Daphne to be his girlfriend in front of her parents and McGee includes a moment of hesitation, which creates a feeling of sympathy as Daphne realises this is not what she really wants.
Another problem I had with both books was how Jeff was portrayed. Although he is technically a side character, I think he was undeveloped and is ultimately very naïve. For example, when Nina tries to tell Jeff that it was Daphne who leaked their secret relationship to the press, Jeff did not believe her and that was the end of their relationship. In the second book, everyone discovers the dark and manipulative side of Daphne, yet no one tells Jeff and he goes on to ask her to be his girlfriend.
Both books are such an amazing read, anyone looking for a juicy fiction to get them through lockdown should definitely consider reading this series. What is even better is the way McGee end the second book and opens up the possibility of a third instalment; fingers crossed.