Monday, 25 October 2021

#CBR13 Book 45: "Battle Royal" by Lucy Parker

Page count: 384 pages
Audio book length: 11hrs 10 mins
Rating: 5 stars

CBR13 Bingo: Self Care

Sylvie Fairchild rose to moderate fame four years ago as a popular contestant on the hit baking show, Operation Cake. The moment she both ended her time on the show and immortalised herself on the internet forever was when her sparkly unicorn cake went horribly wrong and hit icy and arrogant baking judge Dominic De Vere got a sparkly hoof straight in the forehead. 

Now Sylvie has fulfilled her dream of running a bakery, Sugar Fair, in one of the hottest locations in Notting Hill, right across from De Vere's revered establishment and while they are about as different as two people can be in terms of baking choices, flavours, decorations or style, they are both determined to compete to be the bakery that gets to bake the wedding cake for the upcoming royal wedding of the king's granddaughter. They are also both judges on the most recent season of Operation Cake. 

Dominic might find Sylvie's constant bubbliness and whimsy exasperating, and while she makes taste and decoration choices he finds preposterous, he can't deny her skill as a baker, pastry chef, and businesswoman. Sylvie has never denied finding Dominic good-looking, even when he was the judge on Operation Bake who was the most annoyed by her fantastical and glitter-covered creations. Now, spending more time with him, both on set at Operation Bake, not to mention constantly running into him as they both do research for their potential wedding cakes, she discovers that he certainly doesn't seem to be as unfeeling and cold as she believed and that they may have more in common than she first thought. 

I am a huge fan of Parker's previous romances, most of the books in her London Celebrities are excellent. In this book, she's set her books in a slightly alternate present, with a completely different royal family, hence a king on the throne and his gothy granddaughter soon to be married. This romance also has protagonists that both struggle with processing grief in different ways, and Dominic in particular struggles with the aftermath of emotional abuse of his childhood, which is still impacting his relationship with his perky younger sister. 

Dominic's sister Petunia "Pet" De Vere is one of the wonderful supporting characters here, and is set up to be the heroine of the next Palace Insiders novel. I would not be surprised if Sylvie's friend and business partner becomes the hero of a future novel, as well. 

It feels like I read a lot of romances nowadays where food is rather central. This is another one where I kept craving both the delectable bakes and chocolates and if I drank alcohol, I would have really wanted some of Sylvie's magical witches' brew cocktails. This is the second GBBO-inspired romance I've read this year. Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake focused on the contestant-side of the show, while this one gives us more of a behind-the-scenes look. 

It's difficult to do justice to a book I loved as much as this one. When the book came out, I read the whole thing in one day, in every break I could find until I was done. I loved it enough that I also got it as an audiobook just so I could comfort listen to it while doing other things, hence my choice to use this book for the "Self Care" square of bingo. I can absolutely see myself revisiting this often in the coming years and am very happy that Parker is starting a new series, with hopefully many baking/royalty-themed romances to come. 

Judging a book by its cover: I can't hate anything to do with Lucy Parker, and while I might have found this cartoony cover a bit too twee on a different novel by a different author, this works perfectly for me. While the cover images of Sylvie and Dominic aren't exactly how I imagined in my head (Dom has darker hair with more silver in it), I like the juxtaposition of all things pink, purple, fantastical, and frothy on the left side, representing Sylvie, while there are clear, clean lines and no fripperies on the right side that represents Dominic. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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