Cover of A Tale of Two Princes by Eric Geron. A white teen boy in a suit and crown slouches in a throne, while his twin in a cowboy hat lounges nearby.

About the Book

Title: A Tale of Two Princes
Published: 2023

Cover Story: Two Princes Stand Before You
Drinking Buddy: God Save the King
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Mature themes)
Talky Talk: Well…
Bonus Factors: Long Lost Twin, Fish Out of Water
Bromance Status: Rule Britannia Canada

Cover Story: Two Princes Stand Before You

A very cute cover, with Prince Edward and cowboy Billy hanging out in the throne room. With Edward’s laid back pose, I thought perhaps he and Billy had switched places, much like the prince and pauper in that classic American story, the 1967 Elvis Presley movie Clambake.

The Deal:

In an alternate universe, the Queen of England’s son and his wife moved to Canada about twenty years ago and started the Canadian monarchy. Their son, Edward, has been trained his whole life to be the face of Canadian royalty. Everything he does, he does for Canada. He bridles under the rules, but knows this is the life he was born into. There’s no way he could ever admit that he’d rather be a baker. Or that he’s gay. One of these days he’s going to have to propose to Fi, his old friend and unapologetic social climber.

Meanwhile, on a ranch in Montana, a boy named Billy is unaware that he is Edward’s long lost twin brother (he was accidentally switched at the hospital with a baby who died shortly after birth). He’s living on a farm with his mother and little sister, Mack, with impossible dreams of becoming a concert violinist. Also, he’s gay. But unlike Edward, he’s out and proud. He even has a boyfriend, Dustin.

When Billy takes a trip to New York City, he runs into Edward, who goes to school there. Soon, everything comes out. And since Billy is the older twin, he’s the rightful heir to the throne. Too bad for Edward.

Drinking Buddy: God Save the King

Two pints of beer cheersing

Billy won me over immediately. Just a simple farm boy, he’s trying to find his way in the not very gay-friendly state of Montana. He likes his boyfriend, Dustin, but, well, the gay dating pool in his town isn’t super huge. He’d love to attend music school, but there’s no way his family can afford it, plus they need him to work on the ranch. His father died a few years ago, and while they truly loved each other, his dad never really was on board with his son’s homosexuality. Now suddenly thrust into the limelight, Billy has everything he could want: money, prestige, fame, and…a brother.

Meanwhile, Edward has sacrificed everything in his life to be the prince the world expects. While he has legions of fans (Heir-heads), there are still a lot of people who don’t think Canada needs a king. One screw up and Parliament might just send his family packing back to London. When he accidentally started a fire with his birthday fireworks, he was grounded for half a year. And as for being a gay prince? Forget it.

But now Billy has suddenly stepped in. He’s the new crown prince. The future king. And since he’s already out of the closet, well, it seems Canada does have a gay prince, and he’s adorable! Edward is shunted off to the side, no longer the heir apparent. Well, that could make a guy a little angry, couldn’t it? Billy, the hayseed plow boy, turns to his brother for guidance and instruction. Wouldn’t it be a shame if Billy were to fall flat on his ass?

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Mature themes)

Billy has been dating Dustin forever, and he’s…nice. But when he’s whisked off to New York City to hobnob with the glitterati while Dustin is back in Montana…well, maybe it’s time to see other people.

Meanwhile, Edward has been paired with his old friend, Fi, forever. She has no idea Edward is gay, and is positioning herself to become the next Queen of Canada. She’d admittedly make a good one. But Edward doesn’t want a wife. And now that he has a gay brother, he’d look like a copycat if he came out at this point. Then there’s Pax, Billy’s flamboyant, non-binary, Black best friend. Someone who’s had a crush on the famous Canadian prince forever…

Talky Talk: Well…

There were a lot of things in this book that gave me pause. For starters, the way Edward’s parents just kind of threw Edward over for Billy, without a thought to how Billy might react or how their son would feel about being demoted overnight. I mean, since the public never knew about the twin, couldn’t they just have said Billy was the younger brother and kept Edward as the heir?

Also, Billy made such a big deal about not being able to be away from the ranch to go to school, and yet he, his mother, and his sister Mack are all suddenly moved to New York, leaving the ranch in the care of ‘the hired hand’ (a character who is never described or even named, even when they appear in a scene). And Pax, who’s still in high school, is also whisked off to New York to go to school with Billy and Edward. Um, is the royal family just paying for all this?

And both Billy and Edward happen to have gay, POC besties that their opposites are crushing on. Kind of a coincidence.

Also, Edward and Billy’s parents are named Frederick and Daphne. And the reporter whose stories about Billy and Edward are interspersed throughout the book is named Omar Scooby. Fred, Daphne, and Scooby? What’s up with that?

Bonus Factor: Long Lost Twin

So Billy has always realized he doesn’t physically resemble his parents or sister. And Pax has commented on his likeness to the famous Edward. But now that they are revealed to be twins, what does this all imply? Is Pax crushing on Billy as well as Edward? (and to a lesser extent, Edward’s gay friend Neel on Billy?) Could Billy’s parents have been so oblivious about the resemblance? And why the hell did we never get into a zany ‘let’s switch places for the day’ situation?

Bonus Factor: Fish Out of Water

John Goodman in King Ralph

So Billy hasn’t exactly been taking lessons on which fork to use back in Montana. It kind of falls to Edward to show him the royal ropes, which he does, by quoting endless ‘Maple Crown Rules.’ Of course, Edward isn’t thrilled with this pretender. What if Billy were to screw up, shall we say, royally, in public. Say, play an historical musical instrument without permission? Mess up his French verbs? Dance with his hayseed boyfriend at a white tie event? With the help of Fi and Neel, these events all come to pass, with various degrees of success. But when Edward coaches Billy to mess up his hockey facts, he realizes maybe he’s crossed a line. Heck, none of this is Billy’s fault. So why does he keep making all these gaffes, even after Edward and his crew pull back? Is there someone else out there who wants Billy to fail?

Bromance Status: Rule Britannia Canada

I love me a good alternate history book. I don’t think this novel would have worked if they’d tried to use an imaginary country, and Canada still really does have ties with the British monarchy. There were quite a few logical jumps and character inconsistencies that took me out of the story. And, well, I just find it hard to root for the wealthy class. At a parade, we see someone make an anti-monarchy gesture, only for him to be dogpiled by a group of Heir heads. And no one is upset about that, while I’m picturing this poor guy getting curb stomped.

All in all, I liked the book, but there’s a reason the monarchy never caught on in the Americas. The one time they tried to install a king in Mexico ended with a firing squad.

Literary Matchmaking

The Last Exit to Normal

Can’t get enough of ‘gay in Montana’ books? Try Michael Harmon’s Last Exit to Normal.

American Royals

American Royals, by Katharine McGee, deals with a fictional American monarchy.

The Holiday Swap

Want more long lost twins? Maggie Knox’s The Holiday Swap has got you covered.

FCC full disclosure: I received two free copies of this book from the publisher. No money or fancy baked goods, though. I reviewed an uncorrected ARC, so it’s entirely possible some of the issues I complained about were fixed in the final draft.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.