Series Name: Palace Insiders #1
“That first soft touch of Dominic’s mouth – why did it feel like turning the corner in the labyrinth and finally, finally seeing a glimmer of the right path?”
Lucy Parker’s delicious first book in her new series is a delightful romp into the world of competitive baking and also a wistful analysis of what makes a good relationship stand up to heat and not deflate under pressure (unlike temperamental soufflés).
Sylvie Fairchild made a name for herself four years ago on Operation Cake when she lampooned competition judge Dominic De Vere with a glittery unicorn cake presentation that went very wrong. It’s safe to say Sylvie and Dominic do not like each other.
When Sylvie decided to set up her whimsical and glittery bakery right across the street from Dominic’s generations-old established bakery in Notting Hill, the lines were drawn. But when Sylvie is asked to become a judge and join Dominic on Operation Cake and then they both end up competing to bake the wedding cake for Princess Rose’s upcoming wedding, the stakes could not get any higher. Sylvie and Dominic love to hate each other: Sylvie is too whimsical and kind and puts too much glitter and sparkle on baked goods for Dominic’s preference, and Dominic is a stiff grouchy perfectionist who could learn how to smile according to Sylvie.
As Sylvie and Dominic work together and compete against each other, they discover that maybe they don’t hate each other as much as they thought.
Battle Royal is an all-out delight. It gives a delightful look into the high-stakes world of bakers that I adored. As a fan of The Great British Bakeoff and as someone who fantasized about having a bakery while in her twenties, I have a sweet spot for novels that feature delicious confectionery. However, don’t fear that the book is too sweet. Instead, the book grows Sylvie and Dominic’s blossoming romance like a ball of sturdy sourdough. Sylvie and Dominic have undeniable chemistry, and while their enemies to lovers trope may take them by surprise, the reader (and many secondary characters) are not surprised at all to see sparks fly between the two antagonists. Their delightful discovery that hate and lust can feel so similar at times is laugh out loud funny.
While Sylvie and Dominic are the main characters, the secondary characters and their plot points add intrigue and drama to the novel. Princess Rose and her fiancé Johnny feature heavily in the novel as they task Sylvie and Dominic to design a cake that reflects their true selves and not just what the palace expects. Along the way, Sylvie and Dominic, with the help of Dominic’s estranged sister Petunia, discover why Princess Rose’s beloved late uncle lost the love of his life. While creating the cake to the royal couple’s unique taste, Sylvie also discovers why the bakery across town that she despises has been ripping off every creation she creates.
While this book centers around Sylvie and Dominic falling for each other, it also celebrates so many different kinds of love: family love, platonic love, unrequited love, and love that lasts. After all, don’t we all want people to look past our icing and sprinkles and discover the true us that lies beneath?
Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.