I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Battle Royal by Lucy Parker. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In Battle Royal by Lucy Parker, Sylvie owns an up-and-coming bakery in London, after getting to the semi-final of a beloved baking competition on TV four years before. Now, she’s been asked to return to the set of Operation Cake, but this time as the new judge. The catch—Dominic, the judge who voted her off, is still there, and they’ve been business rivals since Sylvie opened her store. And there’s the matter of the contract for the upcoming royal wedding, which they’re both competing for…
I love The Great British Bake Off, and I read a surprising number of romcoms these days, so picking this up was a bit of a no-brainer. And it was really fun!
Sylvie is a fun protagonist, all bubbly energy wrapped around a core of determination and strength. Though she’s been through difficult and painful times in her life, she still seeks out light and joy in life, and yet she isn’t portrayed as naive. By contrast, Dominic is a stern and intimidating man with a quietly gentle side. Perhaps neither of these characterizations are that original, but they’re still well formed characters with layered personalities. Their chemistry and the progression of their relationship is well done too, which helps.
I like the other characters too, especially Pet. Rosie, Johnny, and Mabel were great too. The dialogue and characterization is really good in general. The secondary plot between Rosie and Johnny was moving and sweet, and the complex bond between Dominic and Pet was wonderful to see develop.
There is definitely a decent amount of Bake Off—excuse me, Operation Cake—shenanigans, though not as much as I thought. Much of the plot is dedicated to Sylvie and Dominic’s changing relationship, the royal cake contract negotiations, and their personal journeys rather than to judging the competition. However, I didn’t mind this, because I liked those plots a lot. And it’s not like this book lacks in baking—this is a bit of a sugar dusted love story, and I (pun intended) ate it up.
In the end, Battle Royal is a cute, lighthearted story. There’s a lot of fluff and sweetness, but there is an intelligent examination of emotion and choosing to love even through difficulty. The characters are pretty well written, as are the various relationships between people, and the dialogue is often fun. It’s not really a groundbreaking work, but it is a great summer read!
Overall rating: 8.6/10
Content warning: There are a couple of scenes with fairly explicit sexual content (always with enthusiastic consent, though), so this is definitely for an adult audience.
Battle Royal will be published on August 17th, 2021!