REVIEW: Battle Royal x 2 by Lucy Parker
Four years ago, Sylvie Fairchild charmed the world as a contestant on the hit baking show, Operation Cake. Her ingenious, creations captivated viewers and intrigued all but one of the judges, Dominic De Vere. When Sylvie’s unicorn cake went spectacularly sideways, Dominic was quick to vote her off the show. Since then, Sylvie has used her fame to fulfill her dream of opening a bakery. The toast of Instagram, Sugar Fair has captured the attention of the Operation Cake producers…and a princess.
Dominic is His Majesty the King’s favorite baker and a veritable British institution. He’s brilliant, talented, hard-working. And an icy, starchy grouch. Learning that Sylvie will be joining him on the Operation Cake judging panel is enough to make the famously dour baker even more grim. Her fantastical baking is only slightly more troublesome than the fact that he can’t stop thinking about her pink-streaked hair and irrepressible dimple.
When Dominic and Sylvie learn they will be fighting for the once in a lifetime opportunity to bake a cake for the upcoming wedding of Princess Rose, the flour begins to fly as they fight to come out on top.
The bride adores Sylvie’s quirky style. The palace wants Dominic’s classic perfection.
In this royal battle, can there be room for two?
Dear Ms. Parker,
When I read the blurb for “Battle Royal” I thought it sounded cute. After I began reading it, I almost quit after three chapters. The next morning, I decided to soldier on for a bit more and see if things improved. They did but not by much.
There is just too much stuff packed in: the past contestant/judge relationship of the MCs, the current judging of the show, the current baking rivalry across the street, the espionage/sabotage in Sylvie’s shop, the poor pitiful me pasts of both main characters, the competition for the Royal wedding cake contract, a past Royal relationship, a current Royal relationship, Dominic’s relationship with his sister, and then a few twists at the end that had me sighing and shaking my head. It was all just too much.
A few of the plot surprises I figured out early in the book such as how it was obvious that Sylvie had a spy even without the clunky clues. It was also easy to figure out how the competition for the cake contract would end and what would be Pet’s next job. Did I miss one current baking show contestant’s public fate? I wanted to see some comeuppance. But most of the romance and relationship between Dominic and Sylvie felt forced, trope-y, and utterly predictable to me. What made it worse was that for me the two had no chemistry but what I was told was there. I never really felt it. Plus once Dominic’s backstory got told (and see my thoughts on that below), I didn’t see why he initially was such a dick on the show.
I did enjoy the found family and the relationships between Sylvie and her staff and Dominic and his. It was a bit unbelievable how totally supportive they were despite there being a few workers who, for various reasons, weren’t pulling their weight but these bits were lovely wish fulfillment for those who have dreamed of working for more understanding bosses. Mabel was one of my favorite characters even if I had my doubts about how she dealt with another character.
The Royal family subplot both worked for me and didn’t. I liked it better that these were AU versions but that felt odd, too. I can’t have it both ways, I know. I did actually want to know how the relationship between the Royal bride and her groom would play out. As well, I amused myself pondering if and how these fictional characters were supposed to match up with any real Royals. I totally agreed with Dominic that there is no way in hell I’d ever want to turn my life over to the public and Royal watchers the way that Johnny will be doing.
But though I understood why these scenes were needed, I just couldn’t see a member of the Royal family spilling her guts to someone who is basically a total stranger to her. Nope, not at all. Nor the final “right before the ball” discussion between the Princess and her groom in front of Sylvie and Dominic. In what universe …? I also honestly couldn’t see two English people spilling their guts to each other as Domnic and Sylvie did when all their childhood ills came tumbling out. Nope, not at all.
The parts of the story during which Sylvie and Dominic were judging Operation Cake were favorites but as I mentioned above, I needed to see one contestant get taken down for something. Oh yeah, and the scenes of Sylvie and Dominic deciphering the flavor profile for the cake layer was hysterical. Humphrey – the Cat with a Flat – was the best damn part of the book for me.
Right so my favorite parts were the cat and the baking competition – even if that rather fizzled out in the end. Hmmm. I’m satisfied that I finished this one but it kept being an effort to the end. At least though, there were no pranks as I’ve had to suffer through in some recent rival-to-lover books. C-