I think I’ve probably bemoaned how behind I am on ARC reviews enough at this point that y’all are over my apologies and excuses so I’ll skip those and get right to the fact that I read three booksI was really looking forward to and I’m excited to tell you about them today! First up, we have Battle Royal by Lucy Parker, which was released on August 17th this year from Avon and I loved it! Then I read Foolish Hearts by Synithia Williams, which came out from HQN on August 24th and was also a delight. And finally, I read Anchored Hearts by Priscilla Oliveras, which came out all the way back in April. Oops! Thanks to Netgalley and the respective publishers for the complimentary review copy in exchange for an honest review! (Note: I actually listened to the audiobook–and read some of the finished copy in the case of Battle Royal–of both Battle Royal and Foolish Hearts through my library.)
Battle Royal by Lucy Parker
First of all, I loved this book, which is not really a surprise because I love Lucy Parker’s writing. The plot of Battle Royal is probably a little more plot heavy than some other romance novels, but I thought that aside from one thing, it worked just fine. So let’s talk about this book and why I loved it!
Sylvie was on this baking show as a contestant a few years ago and her penchant for glitter and cutesy things was sort of the antithesis of Dominic’s aesthetic profile. Dom was (and is) a judge for this show and the two sort of cemented opposite/rivals status through the show and since because Sylvie opened her bakery right across the street from Dom’s bakery. Now, the two are being pushed back together because they’re both judges on the reality show and they’re competing for the biggest cake contract of their careers, the royal wedding cake.
That brief synopsis doesn’t even really begin to scratch the surface of what’s going on between Dom and Sylvie and the other characters in this world. Dom and Sylvie both have parts of themselves that are still tender from their various difficulties. Sylvie’s aunt, who took care of her after the death of her parents, happened years ago, but grief is not really a linear process and it creeps up on her at various times. Similarly, Dom was raised by his grandfather because of some not great parenting and his grandfather passed away and he also has some tender parts because of this. Dom’s journey is further complicated because his sister, Pet, is back in his life and he’s not sure how to have the relationship they both clearly want because of the various traumas that stand in their way. Dom and Sylvie’s connection is so strong and I think the two of them are really supportive of one another as they navigate situations that push their respective trauma buttons even as they’re working against and with one another.
There’s a particular scene that reminded me of that scene in Twilight where Bella and Edward visit Bella’s mom and she makes some comment about how Edward seems to orbit around Bella. It was nice to see this concept illustrated in a relationship that is not toxic and plagued by jealousy and a 100 year age gap. Approximately. Despite my love of this book, I will acknowledge that there were two plot points that I really wasn’t a fan of because I think the book was strong enough without them and they created unnecessary drama. Well, one of the elements, in truth, was not so much unnecessary drama as much as it was just not really ever tied up. But at the end of the day, this book had characters, secondary and primary, who felt so real that the entire universe came alive. I cannot wait for book two! I have so much more that I could say, but I also feel like you should discover this book for yourself.
Quick niche tropes that delighted me and may further convince you to read this book:
– a sick bed scene
– Dom owns a grumpy cat
– gorgeous descriptions of sweets
Foolish Hearts by Synithia Williams
Foolish Hearts is the fourth installment in Williams’ brilliant and soapy series that I’ve been enjoying immensely. This time it features a couple teased since the first book in the series, the second chance romance between Ashiya and Russell. Essentially, the book follows Ashiya learning that she’s inherited a Fortune 500 company from the grandmother she hasn’t spoken to since she was 9 or 10. Ashiya is utterly baffled by her grandmother’s choice and she doesn’t really want to take on this responsibility. Ashiya learned from the Robidoux family that power means games and manipulation and it’s always been something she’s wanted to steer away from. However, she finds herself giving in and taking on the challenge, which means she gets to meet this other side of her family and that she needs help learning how to run this company. Elena sort of manipulates Russell into helping Ashiya and Ashiya sets out to convince Russell that he needs to give her a second chance. There’s also two crimes that are being investigated throughout this book and that added a fun element, even if I knew exactly who had done it from the beginning.
Ultimately, I enjoyed this book for the same reasons I’ve enjoyed the other books in this series. It’s soapy and fun and I like the complex family dynamics and character dynamics. I also enjoyed the added suspense element here and really liked getting to know the new family members of Ashiya’s. However, this book presented me with probably my least believed HEA of all of the books in this series so far because of the way Ashiya’s manipulation at the beginning of the novel worked and continued to be used throughout the book until the end. I understood why it was happening, I just needed her to like… see her go to therapy to work on this issue because it seems pretty clear that she learned bad habits from her parents. That said, I really loved Russell’s family and Russell in general was a good love interest. I would definitely still recommend this book to anyone interested in it!
Anchored Hearts by Priscilla Oliveras
I really struggled to choose a rating for this book because it’s one that I felt perfectly fine about, but that I think I liked more than book one. Ultimately, I think if I have to put a number to it, I would say 3.5 and note that ultimately I think this book improved slightly on some of my issues with book one and on the other hand, just further emphasized that my tastes and Oliveras’ writing are probably not a perfect match.
Basically, this is a second chance romance where the romance feels like the two just slip back into things without ever after having a real discussion because love conquers all. The family dynamics are full of meddling and guilt and are really well done, but overall, I think there was a large part of this book that was emotionally underdone, which makes believing the HEA a little challenging, just like last time. I hope you enjoy it more than I did if you read this as well, but after typing out some of my feelings… I think I’m rounding down rather than up.
I am relieved to be slowly (extremely slowly) catching up on some ARC reviews. I think I may make a post about all the ones I’m overdue on just so y’all can help me decide what to prioritize, but then again, I think my Netgalley would appreciate me just reading all of them. We’ll see how that goes!