It’s a classic story: regular girl and aristocratic boy meet, fall in love, have relationship issues due to the fact that the boy is second in line to the English throne, and then eventually get engaged. Who hasn’t heard that plot a million times? Actually, substitute a Duke or whatever, and I believe that is the plot for approximately 83% of regency-era historical romances. Anyway, authors Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan’s (aka The Fug Girls) first adult novel, The Royal We, is heavily based on the Prince William/Kate Middleton romance. And they’re not subtle about it either. It’s been in all the promo copy and just look at that cover (which I love, by the way). In fact, I’m not even sure how much of a plot summary is necessary, but here we go.
American Rebecca Porter (aka Bex) arrives for her year abroad at Oxford and is surprised to find that Prince Nicholas, the aforementioned heir to the English throne, living down the hall from her dorm room. Though Nick is initially reserved and Bex is uninterested in the royal drama, they eventually bond over their insomnia fueled love of junk food and bad, supernatural teen soaps. And yes, they fall in love. Once out in the real world though, the pressure of royal expectations, invasive paparazzi, and the snooty British class system cause tension in their relationship and they eventually break up. Tragedy and twu luv eventually bring the two lovebirds back together, but a big secret threatens Bex and Nick’s happiness on the eve of the wedding of the century. Dun, dun ,DUN!
When a plot is mostly predictable (and that’s kind of unavoidable in this case), then the story rests on its execution, and The Fug Girls deliver for the most part. Bex and Nick are both strong and interesting characters and their romance is believable and sufficiently swoony, without being too much. In fact, the section of the book where they fall in love at Oxford is the strongest part of the story. They both behave in ways that I imagine that two people in their positions would behave and are still likable, even when said behavior is unlikable.
The supporting characters are also a lot of fun. Nick’s rascally brother is the most developed of the secondary characters and is a delight. Bex’s twin sister, Lacey, isn’t always likable but is sympathetic in the end. The rest of the characters are pretty one dimensional, but it’s an enjoyable dimension so I’m willing to overlook it.
The writing is really strong and contains plenty of the trademark Go Fug Yourself mix of humor and pop culture references. There’s also great attention to detail and specificity in the setting. All of these details make you really feel like your in Oxford, London, or wherever. They could be just making this all up (and they did make up an extensive, alternative royal history), but it feels like the authors did a lot of research to make the story feel authentic.
However, I have a few quibbles with the story. First of all, Nick kind of disappears in the back half of the book. It’s by design and somewhat necessary to the plot, but I think it drags the love story down some. Bex keeps talking about how Nick’s love is worth all the sacrifices and pressure that his royal position entails, but it’s harder to believe her when Nick is so absent from the story.
Also, the final plot twist hinges on one character overhearing damaging information because they are somewhere they aren’t supposed to be. It’s such a bad soap opera trope. And I have nothing against soap opera tropes; I grew up watching the ABC soaps and still occasionally watch when something big happens (don’t leave me, Luke Spencer!), but this is one of my least favorite plot devices. Especially when the conflict could easily be resolved by the characters JUST TALKING TO EACH OTHER. And I think that it’s out of character that the person who overheard the info in this story didn’t immediately confront the other characters. Look, I’m trying to avoid spoilers here, but y’all get what I mean.
And finally, the book ends with a pretty big plot detail unresolved. It’s not exactly a cliffhanger and we are assured that Nick and Bex’s love is true, or whatever, but it’s a bit unsatisfying. I don’t need or want all plot points resolved at the end of a story, but I think the authors could have done a better job wrapping this one up.
These are minor quibbles though because I did really enjoy the book. To answer the question posed in the post title, The Royal We is definitely fab.