I have two highly anticipated new contemporary romances to talk about with you today! I was definitely intrigued by Battle Royal when I first saw the cover, but it was its pitch as a GBBO-inspired sunshine/grump romance that really sold me and made me want to try my first Lucy Parker (it will definitely not be my last!). And of course I had to review All the Feels after the phenomenal setup for this couple that Olivia Dade did in Spoiler Alert!
Battle Royal by Lucy Parker (August 17)
Dominic and Sylvie were never going to be friends; her glittery, colorful baking style is just too at odds with his clean, elegant decorations, but that fact was really hammered home when Sylvie accidentally nailed Dominic in the head with a hoof while he was judging her bake on a reality television show. Fast forward several years and Sylvie is now the proud owner of a successful bakery (incidentally, right across the street from Dominic) and has been asked back as a new judge on the show that helped launch her career. The universe is working overtime to push her and Dominic together, though, as in addition to being co-judges, they’re also competitors themselves for the ultimate baking contract of the season: a royal wedding cake. The more time the two of them spend together, the more obvious it becomes that opposites really do attract and that their antagonism has been masking a deep attraction between them.
Ok, Battle Royal has the most EPIC first chapter! Seriously, download a sample and then try not to laugh incredibly hard. Perfection! This book had so many laugh out loud moments and the most incredible starchy hero/sunshine heroine dynamic. It’s one of my favorite tropes, and Parker did it so well in this book!
I’m struggling to pinpoint why I didn’t 100 percent love this, because I genuinely thought I would at the beginning. And I think it’s just because there was too much going on. I mean, we had the romance itself, but there was also Dominic’s relationship with his sister, Sylvie’s relationship with her business partner, the baking show, the competition for the wedding contract, the mystery of the prince, the drama around the royal wedding, the competitor stealing Sylvie’s recipes, and more. I think cutting down on a lot of these, and especially picking between the baking competition or the royal wedding, might have helped the story stay more focused on the romance so that there was room to develop big emotions from it. Personally, I would have ditched the royal wedding part — I was skeptical about how privy Dominic and Sophie were to happenings in the royal couple’s life. I certainly never developed that type of relationship with the people who baked my wedding cake, and I’m no royal!
That said, I still had immense fun reading this book, and highly recommend checking it out if you love starchy heroes, sunshine/grump tropes, opposites attract, baking competitions, and royal intrigue with a huge heaping of humor. It was a delightful read, and while I think it could have been even better, I loved it enough that I think I might have to add a copy to my shelves. And I’m so excited for Dominic’s sister to get her own book!
I received an arc of Battle Royal from the publisher via Netgalley.
All the Feels by Olivia Dade (October 26)
Alex has long been unpredictable, but with the final hotly anticipated season of the long-running fantasy show he’s been starring in soon to be released, the show’s producers are out of patience with him and have assigned a handler to watch him and keep him out of trouble. Lauren has burnt out on years of working as an ER therapist and just wants a relaxing vacation in Spain when her cousin asks her to help out by keeping an eye on Alex, but figures it’s not a bad gig to buy her some time to figure out what to do with her life going forward. Of course, the more time the two of them spend together, the more obvious their mutual respect and attraction becomes!
I enjoyed All the Feels a lot. Alex was such a fun character, and I loved his banter and dynamic with Lauren. I loved how sensitive he was to her and what she needed, and how he convinced her to take better care of herself. They were just so fun together! My main thing is that it was actually a pretty slow read. They didn’t even really acknowledge to themselves that they were attracted to each other until more than halfway through the book, let alone kiss. Which I get and appreciate, because they were basically in an employer/employee relationship for that time period and both were aware of that and didn’t want to cross any lines, even in their heads. But there really wasn’t much tension to drive the book forward for me. And then once they did get together, it was amazing, but then there was a third-act breakup that, while believable, just didn’t feel fully necessary? Or maybe it was — they definitely had some key personality things they needed to discuss — but I just didn’t love how it was handled. That said, I still really enjoyed reading this, and it has Dade’s signature banter and care with her characters and their relationship.
Oh, and I should add, while Alex delights in writing fanfiction in which Cupid gets pegged, he does not actually get pegged himself. It makes sense considering this is traditional publishing with a bigger marketing budget romance, but after what a big deal was made out of it in the previous book (and in this one!), I was still surprised it didn’t happen.
I received an arc of All the Feels from the publisher via Netgalley.
All in all, these were two excellent romances, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to wind up adding them to my rainbow collection of trade paperback romances. And I seriously cannot get over how stunning the cover is for All the Feels. It’s definitely one of my favorites this year!
Have you been looking forward to either of these? Which one would you read first? Let me know in the comments!