Few books have made me audibly laugh at their premise alone, which was the case when I learned of American Royalty by Tracey Livesay. Upon reading the book, I was happy to learn though the circumstances of the couple’s meet cute is entertaining, Livesay took the story’s romance quite seriously.
In a world where social media has boosted the profile of thousands of new faces on a regular basis, even those who go the traditional route towards gaining fame—through show business or being born into a royal family—have to watch how they are portrayed in the cultural zeitgeist. Such is the case for Danielle “Duchess” Nelson, an American rapper (think Megan Thee Stallion, Flo Milli, or Baby Tate) whose expertise as an entertainer is but the launching pad for her greater ambitions. Unfortunately for her, her work ethic doesn’t extend to others in the industry, like a rising pop star who has decided that developing a public conflict based on Duchess’ lack of interest is precisely how she’d like to promote herself. This star’s timing couldn’t be worse as the escalating pressure puts many of Duchess’ goals on hold due to the adverse sheen it puts on her reputation. Fortunately, across the pond there exists an age-appropriate duke, Jameson, who knows everything there is to know about avoiding the public eye. So much so that when pressed to submit a list of acts for a charity concert for his grandmother, the Queen of England, he pulls a student from a tavern local to the university where he teaches for suggestions. When he innocuously goes with the act whose name seems to fit the bill, he has no idea who he’s just invited to a tribute concert in his beloved grandfather’s memory, nor just how fortuitous this spur of the moment decision will be for the both of them.
Make no mistake, this is an adult romance and though it has fairytale trappings—a Black woman from the United States becoming romantically entangled with a member of British royalty—every aspect of American Royalty is grounded in what you could see happening should a relationship like this develop in real life. Jameson has his family’s consideration for tabloids and bad press lead how he approaches a relationship with Duchess from initial lust for her to the deeper emotions that come afterwards. Similarly, Duchess’ whole goal in taking on this appearance was to avoid scandal so that she can make money moves—moves that will be halted should anything be revealed about their relationship. Thankfully, much of their relationship is charming and steamy which keeps this challenge entertaining, though there is a scene where Jameson indulges in creeper behavior that I can see some readers closing the book on. Overall, I enjoyed the story and look forward to what Livesay writes next.