Chapter One 

Alex Diaz-Claremont, son of the first female president of the United States, and his sister June are in the White House, discussing how the tabloids are covering their personal lives. The two joke about how much the press gets wrong and how they enjoy intentionally misleading them. They also talk about the British royal wedding of Prince Philip, the queen’s oldest son, which they are about to attend. On their way to London, Alex talks about how much he dislikes Prince Philip’s brother Henry, whom he believes is pretentious, boring, and closed off. Alex’s best friend Nora, who is also the granddaughter of the Vice President, teases Alex about dancing with Henry at the wedding, and Alex blushes.  

At the wedding, Henry asks June to dance, which irritates Alex. Alex thinks that Henry is only dancing with June to make Alex angry. He’s even more irritated that Henry isn’t paying enough attention to June, and Nora speculates that Henry only asked June to dance for the photo opportunity. Upset about Henry, Alex begins to get very drunk, and he remembers that he used to pore over a picture of Henry in one of June’s teen magazines when he was twelve years old. He was entranced by Henry’s picture, but when he met Henry in person, Alex was disappointed. Henry and Alex talk at the wedding, and Alex, in his drunken state, tries to antagonize Henry. The two end up in a physical tussle and topple the $75,000 royal wedding cake.  

Chapter Two 

The press covers Alex and Henry toppling the royal cake as though it is an international incident, dubbing it “Cakegate.” President Ellen Claremont and Zahra, the president’s chief of staff, are unamused by the events. They tell Alex that, for the sake of America’s relationship with the British monarchy, Alex has to go to London and pretend to be close friends with Henry. Nora and June quiz Alex on the dossier of info about Henry that the crown has sent over, and the three make a drinking game out of it. Alex judges all the facts he learns about Henry and is convinced that Henry is boring, fake, and intolerable.  

Once in London, Alex sits with Henry for a TV interview, and the two pretend to be the best of friends. They also go to a children’s hospital, and Alex overhears Henry talking to a child with leukemia about Star Wars. Alex is impressed with how warm and genuine Henry is. Just as Alex says he is surprised Henry has normal human emotions, there’s a sound like gunfire, and the two are rushed by security into a supply closet. The two end up on top of each other and have a brief fight, physically tussling and insulting each other. But while they wait in the closet, they talk about the first time they met in person at the Olympics, and Henry apologizes for being rude to Alex, saying his father had just died at the time. They talk about Star Wars and playfully argue about which movie in the original trilogy is better. Alex is surprised by Henry, and they exchange phone numbers. 


These chapters explore the dichotomy between private realities and public perception. From the very beginning, McQuiston establishes a tension between how those in political power are perceived, how they manipulate that perception, and who they are when no one is looking. In the privacy of their rooms in the White House, June and Alex explore the public story about them, joking about what is true, what stories they planted, and what is a fabrication. Similarly, Alex has a complex relationship with Henry that is sculpted by his public persona. For example, he becomes fascinated with a magazine photo of Henry as a teenager, and he believes the press about Henry, in which he seems boring and uptight. In the same way that Alex and June fake aspects of their lives to throw off the press, Henry’s public persona is constructed by Henry and his family to hide who Henry is. However, even though Alex knows intimately how wrong the press can be, he takes Henry’s public persona as truth.  

The toppled $75,000 wedding cake symbolizes the way Alex and Henry upend pillars and traditions throughout their relationship. From the first moment they are in the public eye together, Alex and Henry inadvertently cause chaos to existing norms. After reaching out for Henry in order to steady himself, Alex causes both of them to fall. This foreshadows the way that, in reaching for each other, both Alex and Henry fall in love and upend the norms of their lives. Alex watches helplessly as the cake topples over—there’s nothing he can do. In the same way, Alex and Henry watch as the traditions their families and nations upheld, such as heterosexuality and conventional morality, come toppling down as their relationship is revealed. It’s telling that the cake is an obscene extravagance that costs more than many people make in an entire year. This suggests that the systems and structures that Alex and Henry disrupt are elitist and outdated. As Alex and Henry focus on helping as many people as possible, rather than adopting the “let them eat cake” attitude of monarchies, their new generation brings the cake to the ground. 

The Star Wars motif is introduced in Chapter Two, where it represents the possibility of love and hope against all odds. The first real conversation that Henry and Alex have is about Star Wars, and though they argue, they also come to a place of shared understanding. Later in the novel, Princess Leia comes to represent Henry, and Han Solo represents Alex. This emphasizes the heroic nature of their romance. The child with cancer, Claudette, praises the love between Princess Leia and Han Solo and finds solace in their love during her difficult illness. In the same way, Henry and Alex’s love helps both men survive dark times and becomes a beacon of hope for many throughout the world. This early mention of Star Wars also hints at the nature of the romance between Henry and Alex. Like Leia and Han, Henry and Alex are loathe to admit their feelings for one another and bicker often. Like their Star Wars counterparts, Henry and Alex are both fiercely independent but work to help other people.