Last year I read and loved American Royals – it was a CW show in book form, dramatic, over the top, and very, very angsty. I was really engaged the whole time I read it, it took me no time at all and I really got attached to the characters and their relationships. It was one of the most fun reading experiences I’ve had that year. To be fair, the book had its faults and it started to lose its steam a bit towards the end. It definitely was not the greatest piece of fiction to ever exist, but it was just the kind of dramatic, angsty fun I needed and deserved. So I was super excited to read its sequel because I was stressed and I deserved my Princess x Bodyguard trope played out. I WORKED FOR IT. Unfortunately, that was not what I got at all.
Thank you to Penguin Random House International for my eARC. Everything discussed below was in the eARC, so be aware that some things might be different in the final version. All opinions are my own.
The Old Switcheroo
Imagine reading a first book in a series where you spent the entire book getting attached to the characters and their relationships with each other. Imagine that the focus of the book was the romantic relationships, there are several of them, and they’re all built up over the course of 300 pages. There’s angst, there’s pinning, there’s miscommunication and SO MANY OBSTACLES, but they’re all in love and they have to eventually end up together, right? Because everyone has great chemistry with each other and it works. And it’s fun. That’s American Royals for you.
Now imagine the second book in this series showing you a huge middle finger and doing the old switcheroo with everyone’s love interest. Scrap everything that happened in the first book – the relationships developed? WHO NEEDS THEM. The character arcs? NO ONE CARES. Out with the things that make sense, and in with absolute nonsense. That was American Royals 2.
At the beginning of the novel, all of the previously established pairings and ships just get abolished, and everyone gets paired up with a new person, that was previously someone else’s partner. I think this made the first book obsolete and moreover, it made everything feel incredibly forced and contrived.
I absolutely loved Beatrice and Connor’s relationship in the first book. And we spent the whole of the first book rooting for them. More importantly, it made sense for Beatrice and Connor to fall for each other. It was believable and it felt very organic. Moreover, this relationship was juxtaposed with the fact that Beatrice was supposed to marry Teddy, which she felt absolutely nothing for, which made the whole dynamic really interesting. But for some godforsaken reason, the other decided that is not interesting enough, so Connor was out and Beatrice falls in love with Teddy. WHY? Beats me.
Same goes for all the other characters. Ethan and Nina were an atrociously bad coupling, that had nothing going for itself, and was used as this supposedly juicy and controversial pairing (on the count of Nina being in love with Ethan’s best friend like a week ago). This was probably my least favorite of all the new dynamics we got, because it was so boring, it had no chemistry and I just kept thinking WHY. WHAT WAS THE REASON. Sam got a new love interest at least, which is better than her dating her sister’s boyfriend but still, her relationship was just as uninspired as the rest of them.
I Love When Things Make Zero Sense
This book succeeded at one thing – it made me hate all of the characters. I just think they made zero sense and as if they got a retouch of their personality from someone who has not used Photoshop before and is like gRaPhIc DeSiGn iS mY pAsSiOn.
Beatrice was such an interesting character in this first book, with her inner struggle between everyone’s expectations and her wanting to live her own life, but in this sequel she just became a character that swooned over Teddy and had this meek, annoying approach to everything. The author also decided to sideline Jeff as a character in this book, which was annoying on a lot of levels, since he is important to every other character in the novel. Nina was such a bland, uninteresting PoV, made insufferable by her relationship with Ethan.
Most frustratingly, I hated that Daphne’s character was so bad. She is like a mean girl in the first book, but you keep seeing this complex side to her, and her trying to compensate feeling worthless by becoming someone important. I think she was a really interesting character, and this book said fuck that. Daphne goes through no growth, ends up in the same place, does not learn and she deserved better than an ending in which she ends up with a person she does not love, being unhappy despite finally getting what she wants. It was such a sad ending to her arc. I mourn for her character. There was so much potential for the narrative to give her what she deserves while still letting her grow. Instead, we got her still being awful and yet she gets all that she wanted. But she’s sad. The point eludes me.
An Unsatisfying Ending Is Putting It Lightly
I think it’s obvious that this was supposed to be a trilogy and then something fell through. The ending was so unsatisfying and I really felt like no one of the characters ended up where they were supposed to. Moreover, a lot of them felt like they ended up back where we started, as if they had no character arc at all. There was a tone of stuff that was left unresolved and even the attempts to wrap somethings up were so poorly handled. The dialogue in this book also felt so contrived, and fake and stilted, it was so annoying to read and left such an unsatisfying feeling overall.
If You’re Gonna Do Something, Do It Right
This book also made some really lame attempts to handle some important topics, such as race and feminism. Firstly, the way this book tries so hard to make some supposed feminist statements and then frames them as these amazing, groundbreaking things really hurt my head.
This book also decided to introduce a Black character and did a lot of things poorly in that aspect. First of all, when we meet Marshall, Samantha introduces him by saying that his family was born into slavery and that they joined the kingdom after the abolition of slavery, and the whole discussion ends there. However, it really begs the question who were the slave owners if not the royal family. Supposedly, Washington became king instead of president and there’s a royal family now, but I feel like there was a discussion here that needed to be engaged and it was not. I feel like Samantha had to acknowledge and engage with her privilege there, but that just did not happen. She is also painfully unaware how the press might treat Marshall because he is Black and yet she is also represented as this woke queen that is dragging the monarchy into the 21st century. There was also a bit at the end that where Beatrice applauded Sam for being so inspirational to her people and stressing that it’s nice that she is dating Marshall because it would be nice for their family to represent the nation. As if Marshall is a token to be paraded around for the fucking royal family. It was just kind of gross to be honest.
One of the most disappointing books I have ever read. I am sad and I might go cry now.
I would love to hear from you! Tell me about your most disappointing read so we can wallow in sadness together.
In the meantime, happy reading
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