Thanks to The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox, holiday cheer has come early this year. Its premise whisks together a wholesome blend of light Hallmark-like romance and The Princess Switch-style shenanigans readers can embrace effortlessly. The characters are infectious, and the whimsical baking heists at the heart of this story are delectably enchanting.
I found myself thoroughly entertained within the pages of this festive book, each chapter brimming with recipes to feast on and just the right balance of sweet and salty antics amongst the characters. It’s difficult not to come away from this one smiling and yearning for Christmas traditions, even as I prepare to carve pumpkins for Halloween.
This book delivers on some serious Christmas goodness thanks to Canadian writing duo Karma Brown and Marissa Stapley. Under the pen name Maggie Knox, the two embrace the essence of feel-good, twin-centric films like The Princess Switch and The Parent Trap. The fun twin-swap aspect comes into play when Charlie Goodwin, a holiday baking show host on the rise, who enlists the help of her identical twin sister Cassie to save her career in time for Christmas. The twins are the real miracle here as they navigate the hardship of their drastically different career pursuits with a lovability and witty intrigue that is often cheapened by a desire to have the season be the star of the show, not the characters.
The protagonists in this book come first always, and I found that refreshing, even when the romance takes a backseat to their sisterly bond. Like any two-dimensional holiday binge-read, this book is overtly sweet and brimming with clean holiday fun. Yet, The Holiday Swap dares to challenge the expectation with a plot as warm and as rich as mulled wine.
I was overjoyed by how well-developed Charlie and Cassie were, their sisterly bond tangible and grounded in an unspoken sibling history felt on every page. It was easy to follow their alternating perspectives without feeling lost or off-put by lesser experiences. Both women have a strong voice, equal stakes in this ruse, and individual quirks readers will be happy to entertain as this story spirals into a flurry of burning bakeries and fainting contestants. Even the side characters are loveable in their simplicity.
And I wasn’t irritated by the fact Miguel and Jake are somewhat one-note love interests because the romance and the holiday vibes are meant to enhance, not overpower Cassie and Charlie’s shared experience. The romance introduced is simplistically charming. Both men are kind-hearted and incredibly successful at being good-looking and saving lives. Did I mention Miguel can cook and Jake has a dog? Well, they do, and it leads to several adorable meet-cutes.
If you like your holiday reads a little more spicey, these squeaky clean and overtly straight relationships may leave you simmering, rather than bumbling over with cheer. The rest of the story is strong enough that I did not feel skimped by the toned-down romance of this romantic comedy. Keep in mind this book takes place in the week leading up to Christmas, and realistically the window for hanky-panky is small when you are trying to save your family bakery and your sister’s job. Did I mention Jake has a slightly overweight dog? Sometimes that’s enough to light a fire.
Despite this being a holiday read, the captivating story of love and family is wrapped so expertly, I hardly mind. The execution of the theme is subtle but effective. The premise ignores Christmas shopping montages, sexy garland-hanging parlay, and large family gatherings to bring to life locations that set the mood instead. The task of carrying the theme is one the small town of Starlight Peak, and the bright holiday sets of LA are well equipped to handle.
The people of Starlight Peak are also their own story worth embracing; however, the Gilmore Girls vibes of a town blanketed in snow and overwhelmed with anticipation for the holiday festivities are lovely to slip in and out of. I’m a sucker for this small town bakery atmosphere and all the intoxicating recipes that surround Cassie in this setting. It brings to life a familiar comfort and sense of home that so many of us associate with the holiday season.
So if you are looking for that gateway read leading up to December, The Holiday Swap’s casual approach to the most wonderful (and hectic) time of the year may be a perfect way to ease back into the holiday spirit. And if you pick up any book this holiday season, let it be this one. You will not be disappointed by what you discover when you unwrap this scenic trip of sweet recipes and chaotic twin swaps.
The Holiday Swap is available now.