The Fug Girls on How to Read Like a (Fictional) Royal

Posted by Sharon on July 6, 2020
Dedicated fans of authors Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan might know the duo better by the affectionate moniker “The Fug Girls,” after their long-running website, Go Fug Yourself. What started as a humorous blog about bad red carpet style has now become a go-to internet destination for smart and funny analysis about fashion and celebrity culture, with millions of monthly visitors.

Cocks and Morgan have also co-written two young adult novels, Spoiled and Messy, and drew on their years covering the real-life British royal family as inspiration for their 2015 romance The Royal We. (So for those keeping track at home, their book about an American woman marrying a British prince came out long before Harry and Meghan met each other!) This month, Cocks and Morgan return to their fictional version of the Windsors with The Heir Affair, which follows protagonists Bex and Nick after the events of The Royal We’s cliffhanger ending.

To celebrate the book’s July 7 U.S. release, the Fug Girls shared with Goodreads which books the characters from The Heir Affair would pack for a summer afternoon in the sun.

For us, it turned out that the trick to writing a book inspired by real people is to try as hard as possible not to think about those real people at all.

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Our 2015 novel The Royal We is loosely inspired by the current British royal family—the key word being loosely. We borrowed basic tentpole events (and actual towns and landmarks) from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s long relationship, but we also took a lot of liberties, including making our protagonist American and changing whole chunks of British history. Despite that, in the early outlining stage, we still caught ourselves saying things like, “Are people going to think we’re implying Kate did this?” Or, “Will people be mad if we make Harry do that?” That was the first mental hurdle we had to clear: Our characters Bex and Nick and Freddie needed the space to be Bex and Nick and Freddie. And if we didn’t buy into them as such, neither would our readers, and the whole thing would collapse on itself.
 
So we stepped back and started exploring our characters beyond simply what might happen to them. Who are they off-camera, so to speak? What do they eat, drink, watch? What are their peccadilloes, their private habits, their pet peeves? The more we fleshed that out, the more they became fully formed people distinct from the real-world counterparts who inspired them. And from there came the freedom to make them messy and complicated in ways that didn’t have to connect to the Cambridges and beyond. Would Bex say that? Sure, because she’s Bex; we don’t have to know Kate to know Bex inside and out. And when it came time for us to write the sequel, The Heir Affair, having dug deep into the purses and closets and bar carts of these characters made it easier for us to go even further away from the real world and deeper into our own.
 
In that vein, one of our favorite exercises was imagining what books our various characters have on their nightstands—but, given the current season, for this piece we updated that to, “What would they pack in their beach bags for an afternoon in the sun?” We kept it to the core crew from The Royal We, because by now many of you know them as well as we do—and also because we don’t want to spoil you on anything The Heir Affair might offer.

 

Bex, the newest American member of the royal family:


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The Heir Affair opens in a secondhand bookshop, where Bex and Nick have been spending most of their time in the Mysteries and Crimes section. Her interest thusly stoked, we imagine she’d have bought a copy of Sujata Massey’s (fantastic!) first Perveen Mistry mystery, The Widows of Malabar Hill, to read in the sun.


Nick, the aforementioned British prince:


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Some of Nick’s favorite things are: charming American women, true love, and delicious snacks. And thus, he is the U.K.’s biggest fan of Jasmine Guillory’s smart, swoony romances that never skimp on letting you know what everyone is eating. (He’d start it after finishing Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue, which he bought due to his own personal penchant for stories about British princes who fall in love with Americans.)


Freddie, Nick’s roguish younger brother:


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Freddie, in a bit of a bad place since he tried to talk his brother’s fiancée into running away with him, is cheering himself up with Samantha Irby’s hilarious Wow, No Thank You.


Lacey, Bex’s twin sister:


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Lacey has had a subscription to Vogue since she was 12, so she pre-ordered André Leon Talley’s The Chiffon Trenches as soon it was available. She’s also feeling at loose ends both in life—it’s hard to be the sister of the most famous woman in the world—and romantically, now that her brief fling with Freddie is forever dead in the water. So for inspiration she also brought Talia Hibbert’s Get a Life, Chloe Brown, about a woman who tries to find her purpose and ends up meeting a sexy stranger in the process.


Bea, the bossiest and prickliest of their friends:


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Bea knows her reputation as a ball-buster, so she makes a great show of pulling The Art of War by Sun Tzu out of her duffel and glaring at people as she reads it. However, the dust jacket is concealing one of Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell mysteries, starring a gutsy and unconventional lepidopterist in Victorian England and her hot partner in crime-investigating. It’s all Bea’s favorite things: old-school propriety, a woman who thumbs her nose at it, and a hint of lust.


Cilla, Bex’s best friend:


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Cilla hails from a large and complicated family in Yorkshire, so she feels most comfortable reading about other large, complicated families. She’s under her beach umbrella with Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet Chronicles.


Gaz, Bex’s other best friend, and Cilla’s husband:


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Gaz is an adept home cook and fancies himself a Star Baker of the future, so he’s working his way through the entire Nadiya Hussain oeuvre. But he knows a cookbook isn’t super practical for a beach, so on a whim he also packed Beaches, having dug no deeper than the title, and is thus lying on his towel sobbing loudly and wiping his eyes with sand-caked fingers, which only makes it worse.


Clive, a former friend, a tabloid journalist, and a jerk:


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He’d pack Tina Brown’s incredibly juicy—and, he hopes, instructive for him!—The Vanity Fair Diaries. (Unfortunately for Clive, he is no Tina Brown.)


Richard, the Prince of Wales:


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Richard is uptight, and tends to coldness. As her heir, he’s also been under his mother’s thumb for a long time, and then eclipsed in popularity by his children. He secretly mainlines self-help to try and bolster his frustrated ego; while he’s at his South of France villa, rather than on the sand, he’s on the patio figuring out whether Shonda Rhimes can help him via Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person. (Unfortunately, Prince Dick may be beyond even Shonda’s help.)


Eleanor, whom you may call Her Majesty:


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Eleanor generally doesn’t believe in the concept of a so-called beach read. She hasn’t been to the beach in years. But she found an old, flaking copy of Barbara Taylor Bradford’s A Woman of Substance amid her mother Marta’s knitting, and has proven most engrossed in the saga of a maid to a family in Yorkshire who rises above their treachery and eventually gets to rub her success into their jerky faces. OK, that’s more our summary than Eleanor’s, but she is definitely attracted to the story of a woman showing the men around her how it’s done.


Which character’s book taste most closely matches your own? Whose beach picks will you be adding to your Want to Read shelf? Let’s talk books in the comments!

Check out more recent articles:
Talia Hibbert’s Favorite ‘Opposites Attract’ Romances
‘Beach Read’ Author Emily Henry Picks 11 Rom-Coms for the Perfect Escape
The Hottest Romances of July

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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message 1: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Hartzman I love Deanna Raybourn's Veronica Speedwell books but I also enjoyed the Widows of Malabar Hill...so I think both Bea and Cilla have great taste!


message 2: by Lady Z (new)

Lady Z I was super excited to get a message with a link to this list plus three of these books were on my TBR list already… Jasmine Guillory’s “Party of two”, Andre Leon Talley’s “The Chiffon Trenches” (I love the title too!), and Deanna Raybourn though I am can’t remember where I last read from her in here series. I love the wide berth of themes this list has. I soo need to look into these other titles as well. I do wonder if the authors of these books know they were included here since it’s such a cute nod to them and there work.


message 3: by ClaraBelle (new)

ClaraBelle These sound wonderful! I love royalty!


MarathonHandbook wonderful


message 5: by Elyse (new)

Elyse Nick matches my beach read tastes for sure


message 6: by TMR (new)

TMR Love these.


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