I took a page out of my own book (pun intended) to read one of the 25-holiday romance books I rounded up. The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox was a pleasantly surprising read that I didn’t want to put down or have the story end. This is why.
A Spoiler-Free Book Review Of The Holiday Swap
All they want for Christmas is a different life.
When chef, Charlie Goodwin, gets hit on the head on the L.A. set of her reality baking show, she loses a lot more than consciousness; she also loses her ability to taste and smell–both critical to her success as a show judge. Meanwhile, Charlie’s identical twin, Cass, is frantically trying to hold her own life together back in their quaint mountain hometown while running the family’s bustling bakery and dealing with her ex, who won’t get the memo that they’re over.
With only days until Christmas, a desperate Charlie asks Cass to do something they haven’t done since they were kids: switch places. Looking for her own escape from reality, Cass agrees. But temporarily trading lives proves more complicated than they imagined, especially when rugged firefighter Jake Greenman and gorgeous physician’s assistant Miguel Rodriguez are thrown into the mix. Will the twins’ identity swap be a recipe for disaster, or does it have all the right ingredients for getting their lives back on track?
Where To Buy The Holiday Swap
My Review Of The Holiday Swap By Maggie Knox
I Highly Recommend The Holiday Swap
I rated The Holiday Swap five out of five stars on Goodreads (shameless plug to follow me if you aren’t already). While it’s categorized as a contemporary adult-fiction romance (“chick lit), this is a clean romance novel without any harsh language, indications, or content. This would be the book equivalent of a Hallmark Chanel-style family-friendly movie. I believe teenagers 13+ would enjoy this book if they prefer romance. While a younger reader may enjoy it, the general interest in navigating the plot may be what makes or break their opinion of the story.
Format & General Writing
The book is a clean contemporary adult romance novel. The author, Maggie, writes this in the third person. The story is told from a dual perspective—the main characters/twins Charlie and Cass Goodwin.
The Holiday Swap takes place in contemporary America—specifically in Los Angeles and the twins’ hometown, Starlight Peak. The story shows us glimpses into both areas as the twins go through their day as the other. From glimpses in the family bakery in Starlight Peak to the studio set in LA where “Charlie” films.
The Book’s Locations Advance The Story
Elements of the west coast beach and California culture are subtly woven into the plot to help us progress the story. Additionally, the trails in Starlight Peak plus the small town community/other local businesses add subtle details that become major points later on.
What Worked In The Book?
Everything. More specifically, what worked was the character development, story structure, and the touch of realism. Obviously being fiction, this book was not a depiction of someone’s life. But, the elements felt like they could be. There were moments I’m sure many have found themselves in or may in the future. Each aspect felt like something that was related to today’s culture without being dated if a reader discovers this novel 5 years from now.
I was blown away by the author’s ability to develop such strong voices for all of the characters. I truly never felt like there were any repeat moments despite how many supporting characters we were introduced to alongside the twins and their love interests.
In particular, I appreciated how the author decided to map both Charlie’s and Cass’ emotional journeys. We can infer where similarities are in their lives, emotions, and experiences. But, these aren’t loud. When we get to the “reveal”, the author acknowledged how the reader may begin connecting the dots. But, ultimately, those dots led to a new destination I did not entirely see coming. The book was not predictable but instead played on natural instincts and emotions that the author wove into fine details.
Charlie Goodwin’s Character Arc
Before I began the book, like most readers, I scanned the back of the book and read the synopsis. I questioned why Charlie’s concussion was “given away” on the back. Surely, this had to be a major aspect of the story, right? Well, yes, but no. Unlike how other authors may have chosen to map out the story The Holiday Swap doesn’t use this as the tipping point of the story. Instead, it’s what begins our reading journey. I thought this approach would be “it” for Charlie, especially. A big life-changing thing happened pages into the book. How was this going to be a sustainable build Would it play out the way the author wanted it to? Absolutely. Charlie was pushed into another direction which created an even better tipping point than I had imagined.
In particular, I appreciated how we learned what is important to Charlie. It was as if we were slowly but surely peeling back the layers of who she is. We were introduced to the professional version of herself and those components of the values she brought to her career translated to other areas of her life. I appreciated that the author didn’t paint her ambitions as being “evil”, “out of touch”, or a “problem”. Charlie co-existed with her professional life and it accurately reflected how humans have multiple versions of themselves.
Cass Goodwin’s Character Arc
In all honesty, I was expecting Cass to be boring. I didn’t see where her story would go but as she was introduced and the story picked up, I was so excited that I couldn’t predict this. I had thought the author would either intentionally or unintentionally paint Cass as the “boring” sister or make her out to be not as worthy as Charlie because Cass chose to stay in her hometown — we know how those tropes sometimes go. But, the author wrote a lovely tribute to those who are ambitious yet choose a different life. The big city isn’t everyone’s destination or destiny. Cass was proof that a beautiful life can be made and lived where someone grew up.
What stood out the most to me was how Cass didn’t change herself to fit into other people’s ideas. She didn’t think less of herself for choosing not to follow her sister years ago to L.A. And, despite both sisters being in the baking/culinary business, they were able to distinguish themselves from each other. They did this in a way that allowed themselves and us as the readers the ability to hold space for them both in this area. The author created the twins as equals instead of competitors, which was refreshing and allowed the plot of the book to shine through.
The Main Character’s Similarities
We know going into this story that it’s a romance. The novel lifts these elements and brings to life two unique love stories for the price of one. I appreciate that the author allowed both Cass and Charlie to have their own romantic adventure instead of picking one twin to follow. Seeing how both twins approached love at the same time really showcased their differences and allowed us as readers to better understand their core motivations, personalities, and appreciate them as individuals instead of as “the twins”.
How Was The Book’s Pacing?
The pacing of The Holiday Swap was steady. I appreciated the overall medium-length chapters. This made me feel engaged while reading without counting how many pages or minutes until it ended. There were many smaller plot points that helped me stay engaged and excited as the larger plot points were approaching.
As mentioned before, the plot felt believable and it was truly enjoyable. I appreciated the timing and pace of the book. By the end of the story, the author made sure to finish and develop every single plot point—from small to major and those in between.
Realism & The Holidays
This was not a glorified “my life is perfect” book. The author created dynamic characters who were able to make space to learn, grow, and celebrate the holidays. The aspects of Christmas were believable and didn’t feel separate from the story. The author ensured components of the holiday season and Christmas were purposeful and fueled the plot. Maggie did not write Christmas things in just because she could. I truly felt the holiday spirit while reading and wasn’t overwhelmed or facing second-hand embarrassment. The author kept a nice balance between festive and functional. Not every page had holiday cheer and that was refreshing. Sometimes seasonal novels can be too much to read. The Holiday Swap was a refreshing balance.
What Didn’t Work?
How quickly the epilogue ended. Okay, technically there was nothing wrong with the book. Selfishly, I want the story to continue. I didn’t want to say goodbye to this book or these characters. My only complaint is that I finished the book and I can never read it for the first time again.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Holiday swap by Maggie Knox. In fact, I plan on re-reading it and making it my official beginning of the season/Christmas read. Hopefully, in the future, Maggie will consider writing more books and creating a series of this or at least publishing a short story/novella to build off of where the epilogue ended.