You know the narrative. A handsome young prince sweeps a beautiful peasant woman off her glass slipper-sized feet and they live happily ever after, usually thanks to a touch of sparkling magic.
But what if that beautiful peasant was a man instead of a woman?
Welcome to the era of the real gay romance novel.
A quick Google search for true LGBTQ romance reveals real queer content as quickly as Queen Elizabeth can. From his Royal Highness to The Spear and much more, readers can stop and buy.
One such offer, launching Tuesday, is Paul Rudnick’s Playing the Palace (Berkley, 327 pp.), Which follows the unlikely but sweet romance between New York event planner Carter and British Royal Prince Edgar.
The couple meet and flirt before a press conference. Carter helps facilitate and quickly becomes entangled in the life of the other. From IHOP dates to Carter’s sister’s wedding to international appearances together, the couple try to fit into each other’s lives as perfectly as possible. Carter’s self-esteem is the hardest piece of the real relationship puzzle. But if you like romantic comedies, you know where this story ends.
There is such a longing and demand for stories that end happily, says author Paul Rudnick, who also wrote Sister Act, Sister Act 2, and Addams Family Values. That is one of the great characteristics of romances, is that the reader can feel sure that no matter what our main heartthrob are going through, everything will work out. It all comes down to everyone deserving a happy ending. So why not gays?
A big hit of the new genre was Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue, which traced the surprisingly passionate (and disappointingly fictional) love story between the son of America’s first female president and a British prince.
Playing the Palace represents much of the same fast-paced drama as the red, white, and royal blue. Tabloid scandals? Check. A monarchy that isn’t exactly thrilled with the relationship? Check. An incredibly supportive family in the face of insurmountable difficulties? Check.
Playing the Palace deviates from Red, White & Royal Blue in that its characters have already come out as queer (yes, an openly gay prince). Rudnick wanted to avoid the trauma and prejudice that comes with publishing stories to emphasize a certain joy.
He had the idea to write a real gay romance about 20 years ago, but he didn’t know what form it should take. A work? A movie? Finally, a book, which he discovered in the last two or three years.
He was based on something from his own life: the main character is a man originally from New Jersey who also has an obsession with IHOP, for example. Rudnick has also always been fascinated by America’s voracious lust for real gossip, something that continues to prevail today.
I share that strange obsession, he says.
More than the central gay part of the story, Rudnick emphasized differences in social status, as has happened in royal life when Prince Harry married actress Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex.
Rudnick evoked the comic element of the personal lives of royalty that were dissected all the time and the potential for global social embarrassment.
Carter goes through his fair share of international humiliation in the novel on live television. They both vomit during a baking show competition and are shocked during an interview when they show images of him kissing his ex-boyfriend Callum.
In real life, Rudnick thought Harry and Meghan behaved wonderfully during their bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, but he kept thinking about how short Harry’s socks were.
That’s what he also wanted Carter to be subject to, that he keeps trying to do his best and keeps trying to be as polished, presentable and appropriate as can be and the world just won’t let him, Rudnick says.
Could a wider acceptance prepare palaces for some (openly) rainbow royalty? The world is waiting for an openly gay real land so that it is not a story of tragedy or rejection, but of total acceptance and celebration, Rudnick says.
And that’s due to the fact that queer people, and any marginalized group, want what everyone else wants. You want the most serious end of things: you want the right to vote, you want adequate health care, you want the right to marry, but you also want the right to entertainment.