I am so excited to be reviewing The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. Not only am I reviewing the book but both Heather and Jessica were sweet enough to answer a few questions. Be sure to check out my interview with them at the end of my review. BE AWARE: THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAINS SPOILERS.
The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan Review
Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick’s sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he’s fated to become.
Best Feature: Freddie. Let’s be honest, who read The Royal We and didn’t love Prince Freddie? Since reading Outlander I have developed a love for good looking British red heads (Jamie Fraser) and Freddie is no exception. Freddie was charming and adorable and there was a big part of me that actually wanted Bex to end up with Freddie at the end.
Interview with Heather & Jessica
JESSICA: It was really all started as a joke, actually. Heather and I had gone to the mall one day, and we were highly over-caffeinated, and we just started riffing on how bad all the posters and ads happened to be — that maybe fugly was the hot new trend, the new pretty — and basically started the blog to amuse ourselves. We never thought it would ever be read by anyone other than our friends!
HEATHER: At the time, starting a whole blog based on one kernel of a joke wasn’t so far off the norm. You know how today, people start comedy Twitter accounts for, say, Angelina Jolie’s Leg, or whatever? Back in the olden days of 2004, people did stuff like that with websites.
JESSICA: Well, we wrote a book that was based on GFY way back in 2008, and a lot of editors we worked with when we were selling that book mentioned to us that, while that project wasn’t for them, they’d be interested to see anything we did that was fiction.
HEATHER: We jumped at the chance. Writing books, to me, always sounded like this amazing thing that OTHER people did. It never occurred to me that I might have a book in me anywhere — it sounded so hard — so the faith in us from editors was just the shove I needed to stop and think, “Well, why can’t we do it? Maybe we can!” I’m not sure I’d ever have had the guts without Jessica as my writing partner, though. We were each other’s support system as we navigated everything new and scary about putting this kind of work out into the world.
JESSICA: Basically, we write a really, really detailed outline together — when you’re writing with another person, you have to make sure you’re on the same page, no pun intended — and then we trade off. One of us will write a chunk, then email it to the other person, who will edit that chunk before adding the next several pages to the story. And we trade the manuscript back and forth like that.
HEATHER: Particularly for The Royal We, both of us needed to be fluent in the voices of all the characters. We both needed to be able to write without constantly stopping and leaving blanks for the other person to fill in — it would have made for a much choppier draft, and we were on a tight deadline for a long book, so we didn’t need to put up any extra speed bumps. Besides, we never wanted to assign ownership of parts of the book to each other. Both our names are on it, and so we wanted it to be a totally melded product of the two of us. And it is. I am sure there are writing pairs who can split up characters or work out the whole process in a different way, and I’m not saying any of those other approaches are wrong, or detrimental, at ALL. It depends on who you are and what you’re writing, and given those factors, this was what made sense to us.
JESSICA: It really depends on what we’ve got on our plates — if we’re working on a book, or on a freelance article, often we try to set posts for Go Fug Yourself the night before so that we can work on whatever other writing projects we’ve got happening during the day. We also often have interviews or meetings or business calls during the day. So every day is different, but they always involve a lot of typing.
HEATHER: Taking a break from typing one thing basically just involves typing something else for a while. It’s extremely easy to forget to get up and move around. I bought a standing desk recently because we spent the year of The Royal We glued to our chairs.
JESSICA: Sure! We did a lot of research, because we wanted the book to feel authentic. That’s not to say we didn’t make any errors — I’m sure we did, as the only people who really know what it’s like to be on the inside of the royal family aren’t writing books about it! But we wanted to make sure we got as many of the logistics correct as possible. To that end, we read a lot of books — biographies, both authorized and otherwise; history books; a LOT of books about etiquette and about the various palaces in which we’d set the book.
HEATHER: We also took a trip to England in January of 2014, right when we were writing the first section, so that the locations and the feeling of the place would invigorate us. We didn’t want to write scenes in Oxford without walking the streets ourselves. I wanted Jessica to see Windsor — and frankly, I needed to clap eyes on it again myself. I grew up in England so a lot of these are places I’ve been several times, but I needed to see them again with a writer’s eye. And the Buckingham Palace tour is offered only on a very limited basis, so we knew we had to take that. When writing a book like this, we felt the reader would want the experience of being inside Buckingham Palace, and to us that had to come from as authentic a place as possible. We felt strongly that we couldn’t entirely make that up. Also, the tour ended with Champagne, so obviously.
JESSICA: I don’t know that I learned anything that surprising about William or Kate, because we weren’t really researching THEM. Although the book is obviously based on them, it’s only them in the loosest sense — we use a lot of the signposts of their relationship (meeting in college, the lengthy courtship, a break-up), but beyond that, almost everything that happens in the book is fictional. Most of our research was about logistics and location.
HEATHER: For me, the surprises were just in reading the biographies for inspiration, and realizing that I sympathize a lot more with Charles than most people do. Which isn’t to say I don’t think Diana was evil; just that I think she was deified and Charlies villified, when I think the truth is that both of them were equally accountable to the mistakes that were made, and that they were two people ill-suited to be wed and ill-equipped to handle each other. I found digging into a lot of that very illuminating.
JESSICA: Maybe! We’d love to write more about these characters — the honest truth of the matter is that this particular book needs to do well enough that our publisher would ALSO love us to write more about them.
HEATHER: I’ve always said we’ll only do it if we have the right story — we’d never do it just for the sake of it..
HEATHER: We took great pains to use the first part to sell people on Bex and Nick as a romance between two people who fell in love, circumstances be damned. And then with the rest of the book, we took pains to show that sometimes love might not be enough. Sometimes, life gets in the way; sometimes, there is too much collateral damage. We feel strongly that we landed in the right spot at the end, but we love hearing whether people agree with that! It’s certainly open for debate.
JESSICA: I think they both have a bit of a tough path, actually — and this is something we explore in the book, that in a way Lacey (who is our heroine Bex’s sister) is collateral damage of Bex’s highly publicized relationship with Nick. On one hand, Pippa isn’t scrutinized as closely as Kate is, but on the other, she IS scrutinized and with none of the benefits. I think I would rather be Kate, simply because it appears (and I hope it is true) that Kate has a happy marriage and two healthy children, and a job of sorts that seems fulfilling.
HEATHER: I would probably also choose to be Kate, because I think the spotlight that’s on Pippa is much harsher and less forgiving. As much as we all know Kate would be endlessly mocked for breaking a heel or limping from a blister or whatever during a public engagement, many people would sympathize with her struggling with something so human. But for whatever reason, I don’t think people consider how weird it must be to be Pippa, and what a toll it’s taken on her to be the moth flapping around next to the flame. The headlines about Kate, I feel like I could brush off if I were her, but the ones about Pippa often seem a bit meaner and in her shoes I think my skin would be thinner. Even if her shoes, on balance, are probably cuter.
JESSICA: Well, if they both were single, I would choose William. As fun as Harry obviously is, William seems more likely to call you the next day.
HEATHER: William. The older you get, the more you realize that reliability is pretty freaking sexy.
JESSICA: Aha! That IS a spoiler.