Red, White, and Royal Blue follows Alex and Henry, the sons of powerful political families, as they fall in love with each other in the pressure cooker of the diplomatic limelight. As the novel begins, Alex Claremont-Diaz, the son of the first female president of the United States, has a clear picture of his bright political future, one he has single-mindedly pursued since he was a teenager. Across the pond, Prince Henry, the grandson of the Queen of England, feels doomed to live his life hiding his sexuality, prevented from falling in love with another man because of his claim to the throne. Both Alex and Henry go on dates with women for the press, pressured by their families or their position to create and maintain a certain image for the public. Similarly, both have very clear pictures of their career futures, greatly influenced by their families and by the expectations of the people in their countries. When the two become romantically entangled, everything they each thought they knew about their futures is called into question. As they fall in love, the stories they’ve told themselves about who they are begin to fall apart. The central conflict of the novel concerns the struggle to reject inherited narratives and expectations in order to better understand one’s true identity and live a more authentic life. 

The inciting incident of the novel takes place when Alex and Henry cause an international incident at the royal wedding by toppling Prince Philip’s $75,000 wedding cake. The spectacle underscores that, from the first moment they touch each other, the two begin to upend heterosexual traditions and expectations—represented in this case by the royal wedding cake. The incident forces them to fake a close friendship in public in order to smooth over the image of American-British relations in the press. Though Alex finds the ordeal absurd, he goes through with it, emphasizing that he is willing to perform intimacy out of duty to his mother and his country. Though Alex hates Henry largely based on his image in the media, their mandatory closeness quickly reveals to Alex how wrong he was about him, illustrating how truly fabricated—and convincing—Henry’s public image is.  

When Henry kisses Alex at the White House New Year’s Eve party, Alex experiences a crisis of sexual identity, further illustrating how incendiary his relationship with Henry is. Though Alex has always understood himself to be straight, when he looks back on his life, he understands that he has been actively repressing is attraction to men. Through this reckoning, Alex comes out to himself and his family and friends as bisexual. From the earliest moments of his relationship with Henry, Alex’s presumptions about himself and his future are called into question, beginning with his sexual identity.  

In coming out to his mother, Alex also loses his job, which initiates a period of soul-searching about his career path. As he falls in love with Henry, Alex begins to question the kind of life he wants to lead and whether heading into politics is what’s best for him. For Alex, this questioning is closely tied to wanting a slower, present-focused life that creates space for Henry and him to be together. Henry, who has been in love with Alex for years, finds that he is afraid when Alex reciprocates his emotions. Their burgeoning relationship threaten to topple his life in London, his standing with his family, and years of carefully constructed lies and secrets. Though he wants nothing more than to be with Alex, he retreats to London when Alex is on the verge of confessing his love. This suggests that he still feels as though he must abide by in his family’s vision for his future, which involves pretending to be straight to play the role of an heir to the throne.  

The rising action occurs when Alex goes to London to confess his love to Henry. Though Henry resists Alex at first, he finds that he’s unable to ask him to leave, placing his signet ring on the mantle in a gesture that distances himself from familial expectations and legacies. The two have sex, and afterward, Henry says he wants to be in a relationship with Alex and gives him the ring, illustrating his twin commitment to stop living by his family’s rules and to enter into a relationship with Alex. After they commit to each other, a piece in the press threatens to out them, and both go on fake dates to throw the press off the scent. Despite having faked it for the press in the past, Henry finds the charade horrifying and is traumatized by it, suggesting how intolerable inauthenticity and the performance of romance have become for him after experiencing real love.  

The climax of the novel comes when Henry and Alex’s intimate email correspondence and photographs are leaked to the press in a gambit for political power. Being publicly outed is a brutal experience for both men, not because they want to remain in the closet but because it is a colossal violation of privacy. Though the couple fears that they will be judged and rejected, they are also ready to stand fully revealed in the global spotlight. For Henry, the test of this comes when he tells his grandmother, the Queen of England, that he will no longer lie to remain in the closet. The queen represents the culmination of Henry’s lineage and the staunchest proponent of the old guard, so by standing up to her, Henry rejects the traditions that have confined him and sets out on a new path that is decidedly his own.  

The falling action comes on election night, when Alex awaits judgment from Texas, his beloved, traditionally conservative home state. For Alex, how Texas votes is an indicator of how much his home, the place where he first knew himself outside of fame or ambition, can accept the person he’s grown up to be. The political fate of the nation is intertwined with his personal desire to be welcomed home as his authentic self. When Texas "goes blue" and Alex’s mother wins the election, it marks a moment of tremendous hope both for the future of the country and for Alex and Henry. In a telling final scene, the two leave the public celebration, escape the spotlight, and travel to Alex’s childhood home. Though there’s a lot of work and some uncertainty ahead, both Alex and Henry have shed the trappings of other people’s expectations and arrive home together as their true selves.