Published in September 1, 2019 American Royals was a highly anticipated book as it hit the shelves, not only because of the already New York Times bestselling author, Katherine McGee – best known for her Thousandth Floor trilogy- but also because of the refreshingly new (to a degree) premise of the book. American Royals quickly became a New York Times Bestseller and its sequel, American Royals II: Majesty, was released in September of 2020, also grabbing itself a spot on the New York Times Bestseller list. Despite all of this evident success, the books have elicited mixed reviews for a variety of reasons, ranging from the characters to the writing and, most commonly: the second book.
The first book, American Royals, follows multiple character points of views to keep up the whirlwind of storylines occurring throughout the book. The first storyline follows one of the greater-focus main characters, Beatrice, who is in line to be the first queen of America. Beatrice’s character is burdened by the responsibility and duty set upon her, which she handles meticulously, just like her reputation. To those around her, like her sister Samantha (we’ll get to her later too), this translates as her trying to show up her siblings and just generally being a snob. Queue Beatrice’s guard, Connor, who Beatrice can confide in and soon develops feelings for, despite the absence of his name in the folder of marital options that Beatrice was handed by her parents. Next we have Samantha, Beatrice’s younger sister, and the rebellious child of the Washington royal family. Her plot line mainly revolves around three things: her rebelliousness (and the reasons for it), her best friend (Nina), and Teddy. Teddy, who she met at a party, kissed, developed feelings for, only for him to get engaged to Beatrice a few months (maybe even weeks) later. Turns out he was in Beatrice’s marital options folder.
Remember Nina, Samantha’s aforementioned best friend? She also shares one of the many character perspectives read throughout the book, not a member of the royal family, but just as important a character. Now here’s the thing about Samantha, she has a twin brother Jefferson (who is actually not one of the main characters, and doesn’t have any of his own perspective chapters). And Nina and Jefferson happen to be together, kind of. Nina’s plot line is essentially three things: her loathing of many aspects of the royal family, her aversion to press and fame, and her (somewhat) love triangle. Nina’s love triangle is only ‘somewhat’ a love triangle because she and Jefferson do like each other (eventually, it starts out with a kind of best friends to enemies to lovers arc), but Jefferson’s ex Daphne Deighton is bent on destroying their relationship and Nina in the process. Which brings us to our next character: Daphne Deighton. Daphne’s character is set up as the bad guy of the book. Not only is she very hung up on Jefferson, despite lacking feelings for him, but she also has a deep dark secret that would probably get her arrested should anyone find out. Moreover, she also has her own (kind of) love triangle. While she wants to be with Jefferson for the title, and the money, and etcetera, she also simultaneously is in love with his (peasant, as she never fails to remind him) best friend, Ethan.
And that about covers the first book, a variety of separate storylines that all intersect and intertwine with each other at one point or another. Now on to the review.
I’ll start with the bad. To begin with, this book falls into many cliches. Nina’s character is the classic ‘I’m different from other girls’ who likes to wear pants and hates all things girly. Samantha’s character is also your basic ‘rebellious teen’ who dates all the wrong boys, drinks too much, and wears scandalous/inappropriate clothing. Jeff’s character is also pretty much your average sweetheart male celebrity character: everyone either wants to date him or be him. Cliches aside, this book lacks diversity with only two poc characters and two LGBTQIA+ characters (who are not main characters at that). It also has some problematic undertones in the way that it speaks about democracy and monarchy, although all of it is more the way it frames the topics, especially in regards to America, rather than anything explicitly being said.
However, to say the book is only bad would be a lie. Many books have tried to make all the separate plot lines of drama, romance, etc. work and have failed. This was not one of those books. The plot lines in and of themselves are interesting and the overlap in the plot lines of each separate character only adds to the intrigue. The characters (maybe barring Beatrice who I never personally took a liking to) also hit their intended mark, despite aforementioned cliches. Nina is likable, Samantha relatable, and Jeff is a worthy love-interest. Daphne also hits what I can only presume is the target as being the morally grey character. While being a horrible person in many many many scenarios, a picture into her home life gives some insight on her and gives her character a brief respite from being, quite frankly, an evil person. The book’s ending also is a surprise plot twist that leaves you anticipating the follow-up in the second book.
To save you some time, I’ll give the quick summary of the second book, as found on Goodreads: “Power is intoxicating. Like first love, it can leave you breathless. Princess Beatrice was born with it. Princess Samantha was born with less. Some, like Nina Gonzalez, are pulled into it. And a few will claw their way in. Ahem, we’re looking at you Daphne Deighton. As America adjusts to the idea of a queen on the throne, Beatrice grapples with everything she lost when she gained the ultimate crown. Samantha is busy living up to her “party princess” persona…and maybe adding a party prince by her side. Nina is trying to avoid the palace–and Prince Jefferson–at all costs. And a dangerous secret threatens to undo all of Daphne’s carefully laid “marry Prince Jefferson” plans. A new reign has begun,”.
The first book ended on intense cliffhangers from multiple angles: love lives, power plays, etc. The cliffhangers left you waiting for the day the second book would release. A second book which ended up being a massive disappointment. To say ‘I’ll start off with the bad’ would be a lie because I’m not sure what I would say afterward because, to be honest, I can only name the bad. (*Spoilers Ahead*)
The book destroys almost all relationships you root for. Daphne finally comes to her senses only to realize too late. Jefferson pulls a 180 and does exactly what you would hope he doesn’t. Basically the only ending worth mentioning would be Samantha and Teddy’s, and even that one could not be labeled satisfactory, even though it has potential. And Nina’s story basically ruined itself about a quarter of the book in. I’ve spared the details so, if you so choose, you can find out the specifics by reading.
So, in conclusion, the first book is a wonderfully-written drama/romance that’ll keep you hooked until the very end, at which point you pick up the second book and immediately regret the decision about twenty pages in. So down to the main question: would I recommend you read this series? In short, yes. But only because of the first book which is definitely not a book I would pass up on, but proceed to the second book with expectations lowered. Or don’t read the second book and fill in the blanks yourself, I’m sure whatever conclusion you come to will be better than what goes down in the second book.