Truly, Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud
Publisher: Point Paperbacks (Scholastic)
Release Date: July 30, 2019
Available For Pre-Order Through The Book Depository: Truly Madly Royally
Summary: Zora Emerson is not here to play. She’s enrolled in a prestigious summer program, and is ready to use what she’s learning to change the world (or at least her corner of New Jersey, for now).
Zora’s not expecting to vibe with any of her super-privileged classmates. So she’s shocked to find she’s got chemistry with Owen Whittelsey, who is charming, funny, undeniably cute…and turns out to literally be a prince. As in, his parents are the king and queen of a small European country. What?
Suddenly, Zora’s summer is looking a lot more complicated — especially when Owen asks her to be his date at his older brother’s wedding. Can her feelings for Owen, not to mention her sense of self, survive the royal chaos?
*Received ARC through Bookish*
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: Truly Madly Royally is a YA Royal romance, perfect for summer! Zora’s summer gets a bit more interesting when her chance encounter with a boy in the library during her pre-college program quickly puts her into the spotlight. As it turns out, he’s actually a prince! From its focus on characters, to a sweet summer romance, Truly Madly Royally is a fun debut filled with heart!
You know those books that you always find yourself interested in, but never happen to pick one up? That would be me with royal romances–I see them on my twitter feed all the time and I know about a good number of them, I’ve just never taken the time to read one!
But now I have and let me tell you, Rigaud’s debut is one that was just such a blast to read and I definitely recommend it if your looking for a fun, royal romantic contemporary that really puts a focus on its main character!
Truly Madly Royally balances the fun, cute romantic moments alongside discussions of real world issues and topics, so perfectly!
I’d already been looking forward to Rigaud’s debut because I don’t often read royal romances and this was one looked like it’d be a perfect read for me! Not only is it a debut from an author of color, but its also centered around a biracial relationship, featuring a Black protagonist! I’m always here to support debut, #OwnVoices books, and especially those featuring characters of color!
Told through a first person POV, Zora Emerson is the highlight of this novel! She is such a dedicated and hard-working young woman, you can see the vibrant energy and spirit to her character!
Zora started an organization called ‘Walk Me Home’ as a way to help kids whose parents/guardians were busy after they finished school. She’s really dedicated and dreams of getting it expanded, to make sure it continues to grow!
From the work she puts into hoping to receive more sponsorships and ensuring she see’s it expand within her community, Zora’s organization means a lot to her and nothing stops her commitment to this project!
This summer, not only is Zora busy with her organization, she’s also attending a summer program at Halstead University as a part of its college prep program.
Throughout the novel (especially from her time in the summer prep classes), she talks about the privilege the more wealthy students have compared to others and how she doesn’t ever really feel like she fits in this atmosphere of the university!
What Zora wasn’t entirely expecting either was that a seemingly normal meeting, alongside a phone mix-up with a guy in the university library, would quickly change her day-to-day life and put her in the spotlight!
The guy she meets is Owen Whittelsey, who happens to be a prince! We learn he’s the prince of Landerel, a fictional European country. Zora wasn’t all too prepared for all the attention and royal protocol that happened because of their meeting, but she does the best she can!
Truly Madly Royally is really about Zora and her development as she continues to pursue her dreams as a community organizer! The plot itself really focuses on the introspection of her as character, as she makes new friends and tries to understand what kind of relationship she wants with Owen.
She doesn’t agree to constantly meet up with him at first, but the more she gives it a try, she realizes she’s falling for him!
The story also explores her journey to navigate all these different aspects of her life that get a bit more complicated when she meets him: relationships, being in the spotlight, her organization, & so much more! She’s a really wonderful protagonist and I loved reading from her POV!
What made this novel such a refreshing contemporary, was that it was definitely a YA that’s on the younger side, in terms of voice and the lightness on romance, which was nice! Also because of that, I found the story felt more realistic!
What I loved about this book was how plot-heavy it was! For a pretty short contemporary (averaging at about 280 pages in the ARC) there were so many different plot points and threads that were explored, which was a lot of fun!
Also, while the summary does explain a royal wedding and was mentioned somewhat early in the book, it’s definitely more of a plot point nearing the end chunk of chapters.
Friendship is another aspect of the story I loved exploring! Zora & her best friend Skye keep in touch throughout the novel while their both attending different college summer programs! They always make time to talk to each other and keep updated on what’s going on during their summer apart. Their dynamic and supportive friendship was really fun to read! I appreciated that Rigaud made it such a central part of the plot!
There’s also a plot point introduced about 1/2 way through the book when secrets get out about Zora and Owen and one of her classmates Matt, wants to be her friend! I liked that a friendship randomly blossomed in this book because to me that’s pretty realistic and I loved how it showed Zora that the classmates in her summer program weren’t all the same!
As I mentioned above, this novel discusses privilege throughout, but also so many other topics that really weave their way into the plot of this story. From race, celebrating Black culture, alongside privilege in communities and education. I loved how Rigaud made these themes and their discussions present throughout, while also keeping the light, fun spirit of the story!
Alongside friendship, family is also a really present part of the story! From her mother, step-father, older brother Zach, and father, they all get pretty equal page-time and I just loved exploring the family dynamic between them all. Zach and Zora’s brother-sister dynamic was really fun to read, but what got the most page-time was definitely Zora and her mom!
Her father was also in the story in certain moments and I thought exploring the dynamic between them was super interesting because Zora knows her father doesn’t always show Zora he’s proud of her, but when he does she really takes it to heart!
In terms of writing, through Zora’s voice, the dialogue really brings the characters to life and there’s a distinct voice to each of them! Many of the characters introduced aren’t just side characters but we see they become part of Zora’s story in some way whether its new friends or people related to Owen–they all come to life through Rigaud’s writing and overall they were all fun characters to get to know!
I feel like where Truly Madly Royally struggles though, is in certain aspects in terms of character and plot! Firstly, Owen–he’s nice and his relationship with Zora is cute, but I never felt I really knew him too much…by the time I reached the end, I felt there would have been more development to him. We got a bit more into his family, the grief for his sister who passed away, and that he’s a genuinely nice person, but it felt like there was still more to know about him.
Also, Landerel is meant to be a European country resembling the UK in some way and overall it was pretty well developed, but there were moments I just wanted to know more–because it is mentioned a good number of time throughout the story and Zora gets a chance to visit!
Finally, there were certain plot threads that are left hanging throughout the book that are just dropped when we reach the wedding portion and I was left wondering what happened (like Zach & her best friend Skye & the dynamic between Zora & her father).
But overall, Truly Madly Royally is a great summer contemporary and debut to check out! Its got a dynamic main character, focus on friendship, family, and centers around a girl navigating life alongside a cute royal romance!
Truly Madly Royally is a contemporary romance that really focuses on Zora’s journey when she gets put into a royal spotlight and now has to navigate all of these everyday aspects of her life, in a new way! Rigaud’s debut is a fun summer read with a focus on its characters, a light and adorable romance, and a focus on the plot that will keep you turning the page! Fans of royal romances will definitely want to check this one out!