For an earlier generation of YA readers, Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries was the archetypal contemporary royal romance: an American girl suddenly finds herself immersed in the world of titles and tiaras. New novels spin the trope in different ways, imagining an interracial romance à la Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, a relationship between two teenage girls, and an alternate contemporary United States whose first family is royalty.

American Royals
Katharine McGee. Random House, Sept. Ages 12–up.
McGee’s debut series, The Thousandth Floor, took place in a 22nd-century New York in which all of Manhattan resides in an impossibly high skyscraper. In her new book, set in a reimagined contemporary U.S. that saw George Washington gain a crown instead of the presidency after the Revolutionary War, Washington’s descendants still reign. McGee lays out the stakes for one heir in the first chapter: “Beatrice had always known that she couldn’t date the wrong person—couldn’t even kiss the wrong person, the way everyone else at college seemed to. After all, no one wanted to see their future monarch walk-of-shaming home from a college party.” A sequel is planned for 2020.

Her Royal Highness
Rachel Hawkins. Putnam, out now. Ages 12–up.
In this companion novel to 2018’s Prince Charming—which was originally titled Royals and whose paperback reissue features a cover look that ties both books together—Millie Quint has just had her heart broken and is eager to get away from Houston. She lands a scholarship to spend a year studying abroad at Gregorstoun boarding school in Scotland, and ends up rooming with Flora, a tabloid celebrity and Scottish princess. (Flora’s the younger sister of a character in Prince Charming.) They start out wary of each other—Millie’s thrilled to be at the school and Flora is scheming to get kicked out—but their feelings evolve into friendship and eventually romance.

Truly Madly Royally
Debbie Rigaud. Point, July. Ages 12–up.
Inspired by the real-life Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Rigaud’s new novel follows the budding romance between Zora Emerson, a community organizer and high school overachiever, and Owen Whittelsey, whom she meets while both attend a prestigious summer college prep program. She soon learns that he’s actually the prince of a small (fictional) European country, and as they get to know each other, the two try to maintain a normal life amid the glitz, glamour, and speculation that comes with dating a royal. (For PW’s conversation with Rigaud, see “Queen and Community.”)

Return to the main feature.