“I want to know I’m in love, no not even know it—I want to understand why it’s called being in love. I want to be overwhelmed by the miracle of another human being.” —Paul Rudnick, Playing the Palace
Playing the Palace by Paul Rudnick is the satirical romantic comedy take on a modern relationship in a royal romance storyline. Told from the eyes of main character, Carter Ogden, Playing the Palace is fast-paced, over the top and at times made me laugh out loud. Think of it as the humor of Schitt’s Creek combined with the snarky dialogue of anything created by Amy Sherman-Palladino.
I’ll be honest. I couldn’t connect with the story or with Carter until I looked into the author. I found out that Paul Rudnick is a satirist/humorist. I also knew that I needed to take off my straight, white woman gaze. Once I realized that I needed to suspend my own reality and embrace the completely zany and borderline deranged humor in the situations that Carter and Prince Edgar find themselves in, I felt more at ease with the story. Carter is an out and proud gay man who works in New York City as an events coordinator. I enjoyed the descriptions of his jobs—which he makes out to seem equal parts whimsical, annoying as well as fabulous. Carter is the epitome of a sunshine-character but has a lot of self-doubt and insecurities. The friends and family that surround him help to showcase his radiant personality.
Edgar is the complete opposite. Not the buttoned-up, stuffy royal prince that we expect to find in our currently reality, but Edgar is upfront about his sexuality even if he doesn’t fully embrace the lifestyle like Carter. Edgar has the outward appearance of confidence, but actually is a lot like Carter—full of self-doubt and defaults to hiding his true self, as well as his wants and needs. Have you ever watched The Crown? Edgar lives his life knowing that he will become king one day. It’s a big responsibility and burden to him in every instance, situation, and decision that he makes. Edgar and Carter are drawn to each other especially because they appear so outwardly different. While those differences are what each of them admire about the other. Those differences play into the insecurities that each of them have and ultimately create friction and drama. Both characters admit that they are new to relationships, or have had a bad track record. Regardless of their past, they both agree to explore a relationship together.
“His smile had a recklessness to it, which was why he held it in check. I’d made him smile, which was maybe the sexiest thing ever.”
Essentially, Carter is a PR nightmare for the Royal Family. Edgar’s grandmother, the Queen, is written in a way that makes you understand why I say that Playing the Palace is a satirical romantic comedy. She’s a caricature of the overbearing, straight-laced grandma. Her counterpart in Carter’s family is his Great Aunt Miriam. I’ll be honest, the Queen and Miriam are absolute scene-stealers. While Carter and Edgar navigate their feelings for each other , the two men also work on how to address the public opinion of their relationship—which is riddled with blunders and hilarious situations. It is Edgar’s Royal Secretary, James, who truly is the calming voice in what becomes a tornado of emotional chaos. I did notice that some simple communication would have solved a lot of the drama between Carter and Edgar, but I won’t begrudge them because without experience or foresight, we all make mistakes.
I enjoyed Playing the Palace. I’ve edited my review so many times, but ultimately, I’ve come up with this final takeaway. The timeline as well as the events in the book occur at a near breakneck pace, and while at first I liked the snarky and quick-witted narration given by Carter, there were times I got pulled out of the story. However, I liked that with every instance of drama there was a great solution. Playing the Palace is full of heart, tons of dry humor, snarky speech, and ultimately it’s about putting in the work to get your own slice of happiness. So if you’re in the mood for a humorous, sometimes ridiculous, but absolutely fun royal romance then give Playing the Palace a try.