AKA, the book where Lucy Parker rips my heart out, covers it in icing and edible glitter, and then gently replaces it. This book hauled me in and emotionally wrecked me and I loved every minute. It’s grumpy/sunshine, rivals-to-lovers, forced proximity perfection and good to the last crumb!
Sylvie first met Dominic while she was a contestant on baking show and he was a judge, made even more memorable by, well, a unicorn and glitter explosion involving him. Years later, they now own bakeries across the street from each other. Dominic’s, inherited from his grandfather, specializes in elegant and traditional designs while Sylvie’s… well, it has an enchanted forest in the basement and one of the employees makes sugar sculptures of the Golden Girls. And while they’re both signed up to judge the latest season of the baking show, their biggest source of competition? One of the royals is getting married, and both want the chance to design the cake.
“He went in for elegant minimalism. She rarely saw an object that couldn’t be improved with sequins.
She was, aesthetically, his worst nightmare.”
I usually start out my review talking about the heroine, but this time I need to talk about Dominic. He has a reputation for his cutting criticism and cold demeanor on the baking show, but from the moment we’re in his POV, we see that it’s not the whole story. He’s understanding of his employees’ personal issues, unfailing kind to Sylvie when she’s freaking out before the cooking show starts (he gives her chocolate, for goodness sakes), and an absolute dithering idiot when it comes to emotions. And if there’s one thing Sylvie understands, it’s emotions. To paraphrase from the book, if Dominic is technical perfection, then Sylvie is heart. She knows that all the unicorns and dragons that Dominic derides as childish are something that make people happy, and what’s the motivation behind baking beautiful and delicious desserts if not to make people happy? They’re both incredibly talented people who love baking, but their outlooks on life couldn’t be more different.
“Pardon me if it’s obvious when two people are into each other.”
“Is it?” Mariana murmured. And smiled at her blandly.”
It’s obvious from the outset that Dominic has a thing for Sylvie, even if he’d probably term that feeling as annoyance rather than attraction. And Sylvie? Yeah, she’s in denial, too, and thinks her flirting is just attempts to get Mr. Dour to loosen up. There’s something ridiculously fun about watching two people who interested in the other be completely oblivious about it. And the feels! It’s emotionally resonant and truly moving. There’s a scene where Sylvie impulsively grabs Dominic’s hand to comfort him and the description simply melted me into a pile of goo. The book also deals heavily with grief, as both Sylvie and Dominic are still dealing with the after effects of the deaths of important people in their lives. There’s several examples of the heart-stoppingly painful moments where, even years later, grief can swamp you. And on a happier note, it’s also about family, found and biological: Dominic’s fumbling attempts to build a relationship with his sister, Pet; Sylvie’s best-friend-practically-her-brother Jay; and, well, all the royal shenanigans you could expect. The scene where Dominic finally understands deep in his soul that he has people he can reach out to? I bawled like a baby.
As for criticisms, there’s a lot going on in this book. There’s the relationship forming between Dominic and Sylvie, investigating what to make for the royal wedding cake, a case of corporate espionage, both characters dealing with grief and family issues… oh, and the cake competition they’re judging. It’s a lot. For the most part, I felt like the various threads were handled well throughout most of the book, but it didn’t quite wrap up as well at the end.
“I’m equal parts terrified and aroused.”
“What an excellent relationship motto for us. I think I’ll embroider it on a cushion.”
Overall, this was an emotionally charged read for me, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next book. It was very obvious who the next couple will be and I am so excited to see what happens with them!
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.