Palace Insiders, #1
Heat Factor: A little bit of spice to go with all those sweets
Character Chemistry: The way she makes his eye twitch
Plot: Rival bakery owners compete on bid for royal wedding cake (plus a bunch of other stuff)
Overall: I feel very emotionally manipulated right now; this is not *necessarily* a bad thing
I picked up Battle Royal because I’ve heard good things about Lucy Parker, and because the blurb touted this as a GBBO-inspired romance. And I love GBBO. However, while a baking competition does feature in this romance, it’s more of an aside—the more substantial sideplot that drives the romance is British Royal Drama.
Once I got over my discombobulation about reading a lot more about the love lives of various royals than I was bargaining for, I can say that I really enjoyed this one, with a few asterisks.
So, the premise. Sylvie and Dominic own dueling bakeshops across the street from one another. Sylvie’s cakes look like a unicorn dusted them with rainbows and sparkles; Dominic is into classic minimalism. They first met four years ago, when Sylvie was a contestant on GBBO, and Dominic a judge; she was eliminated when her unicorn cake exploded and whacked him in the head. Now, Sylvie has been tapped to join the judging team. Also, Sylvie and Dominic are both competing for the bid to make the cake for an upcoming royal wedding. They therefore end up spending a lot of time together as they research details for the royal cake.
Sylvie and Dominic have a lovely energy to their interactions. Dominic is icy and scary and Sylvie just wants to poke at him (and cover his life in glitter). For his part, Dominic is repulsed by Sylvie’s aesthetic—but he also really wants to touch the purple streaks in her hair. And while they may be outwardly disdainful of each other, from a very early stage in their relationship they become very gentle with each other as they slowly reveal themselves. So I liked that.
The book is also very funny. Sylvie and Dominic both have a bit of a sarcastic streak, which bleeds out into the narration. But Battle Royal is also really melancholy, as Sylvie and Dominic (and various secondary characters) deal with grief and work through the reality that sometimes love stories don’t work out. The juxtaposition of these two tonal ranges heightened the emotional manipulation I felt. In this way, Battle Royal felt very similar to Love at First by Kate Clayborn (which inspired a whole post by moi about how sometimes emotional manipulation is exactly what I want in a romance).
Here’s my asterisk: there’s a lot of plot in this book. There’s the GBBO plot, there’s the royal wedding plot, there’s the guy who’s stealing Sylvie’s recipes plot, there’s the we have sad histories plot, plus even more subplots that I won’t get into because I don’t want to get into spoiler territory. Now, an intricate web of a story is not necessarily a bad thing, but in this case, it didn’t quite hang together.
The descriptions of the cakes were lovely, though.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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