Title: Battle Royal
Author: Lucy Parker
Publication date: August 17, 2021
One Sentence Summary: Four years ago, Sylvie and Dominic became firm baking rivals and the intense dislike was mutual, but now, when they’re competing for the contract to make a royal wedding cake, they end up working closer together than they ever thought they would.
Battle Royal pits baker against baker as two rivals go head to head battling for the contract to bake a royal wedding cake. This is an incredibly delicious read that had me constantly thinking of cake. But it’s also a seriously romantic novel with so many great love stories woven through it. While it almost felt like there might be too many stories, I thought it was actually balanced really well. I loved that it was serious as well as sweet, that it really focused on the characters and what they were feeling. Battle Royal is sweet and serious, delicious and romantic, and had me dreaming of cake and gorgeous chocolates.
Four years ago, Sylvie was a contestant on Operation Cake and a minor miscalculation sent her packing, simultaneously earning her the eternal dislike of Dominic, one of the judges. Sunny and glittery, Sylvie wasn’t one to let Dominic stand in her way, and set up shop right across the street from his long-standing family’s bakery. For four years, the cold rivalry was alive and well.
But now Sylvie is a new judge on Operation Cake, alongside Dominic. It’s not ideal, but both their bakeries could use the additional income. When news of a royal engagement breaks, they both see a chance at claiming the limelight for their respective bakery. Unexpectedly, the royal couple would like to see a proposal from both of them, following some very vague and interesting requests.
The competition is tense, both on screen and off, as Dominic and Sylvie puzzle through how to make the bride and groom happy, pulling them closer and closer as old and new love stories swirl around them. Perhaps even their own.
I expected Battle Royal to be absolutely delicious and sweet. With cake being an unofficial third main character, I thought I was in for a fun, sweet story full of delicious cake. Instead, it had a surprisingly serious overlay as both Sylvie and Dominic struggled with their histories and overcoming them. It was absolutely sweet, but not quite of the light and fluffy kind.
Battle Royal surprised me in so many ways. There’s more than one love story, none of them perfect and beautiful, but it was so incredibly lovely the way love tied each couple together. They all felt realistic and, in their own ways, they all made my heart ache for them. I loved how deeply and how sensitively they each were handled, how emotions played such a huge role, and how clear it was that, despite all the roadblocks, these couples really were made for each other.
I loved Sylvie and Dominic to pieces. They’re rivals with very distinct and different personalities, but they ended up blending perfectly. Dominic is very serious and dour, very much the stereotypical critical judge on and off screen. His bakery was his grandfather’s and is an institution in London. He also comes from a family with very little love and care in it, so of course he’s quite standoffish. Sylvie, in contrast, is everything bright and magical. Her bakery is a veritable fantasy dream and glitter is a must. But she, too, has pains from her childhood stemming from the early loss of the woman who raised her. On their own I loved Dominic and Sylvie, but, put together, they were so much fun and played off each other so well. I wish there had been more of an enemies to lovers story, but I also understood there were a lot of other smaller stories and a lot of threads running through the book, and I couldn’t wait to find out how it all turned out, so, while I wish they had battled a little more, I ended up feeling quite happy with their relationship. There’s a bit of a love triangle, but it’s not a major component of the story. I suppose it could have been removed, but it felt completely natural and was handled with such maturity by the characters that I actually really liked it.
All of the characters were wonderful with distinct personalities. I loved how the bakery staffs really upheld the rivalry and, if I could pluck Mabel from Sylvie, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Outside of Sylvie and Dominic, she’s definitely my favorite. She isn’t seen much, but she absolutely makes use of every on-page moment. Then there’s Pet, Dominic’s younger sister. I couldn’t help but think of her as a quivering young woman, bouncing from a ball of energy to wanting love and approval so much it almost hurts. But she’s so strong, so competent. I loved her dearly, and can’t wait for her to get her own story.
I do wish there had been a better balance between Operation Cake and the race to put together the perfect royal wedding cake proposal. I felt the proposal overtook the story and, by the end, the TV show was just seriously anticlimatic. I expected being immersed in it as I would any other baking competition, but it all felt so strongly skewed one way that it became boring. So I guess I’m glad most of the story didn’t focus on it? I did love how Dominic and Sylvie had to puzzle out the royal couple’s specific requests. It was a ton of fun and made me laugh a few times. But it also led to even more romantic stories that just made me swoon. Overall, very sweet and seriously romantic.
Battle Royal was a little predictable both in terms of the main story as well as some of the subplots. I easily picked out what was going to happen, which usually bothers me and turns me off from romance. But the journey the characters go on in this novel was so interesting and the characters so much fun that I really enjoyed how it built up to the inevitable conclusion.
Battle Royal is a very sweet, very romantic read that’s surprisingly serious. The characters tend to be older, so the relationships are a little more mature. There isn’t as much angst as one might find in a true enemies to lovers story, but it’s still fun and there’s so much going on that there’s always something new and different to focus on.
Battle Royal is all about love and family, both blood and found. It’s sweet and beautiful, and all about fighting tooth and nail for the one you love. Oh, and there’s absolutely a ton of delicious (and some questionable) cake!
Great if you enjoy:
- romance with seriousness thrown in
- cake and candy
- love stories
How many cups of tea will you need?
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Thank you to NetGalley and Avon for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.