“But that was before he had come to her door with dinner and turned a good day into a great one. That was before she had seen his handsome face again and realized how much she had missed him, even after just one day.”
I grew up on a healthy diet of twin stories: Hallie and Annie, Mary-Kate and Ashley and Elizabeth and Jessica. When I heard the pitch for The Holiday Swap the debut rom-com by Maggie Knox (a pen name for the dynamic duo of Marissa Stapley and Karma Brown) I was instantly enthralled. I am happy to report that the feel good, charming, and decadent holiday twin caper lived up to my high expectations. What a ride!
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 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 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?
The story switches between Cass and Charlie and L.A. and Starlight Peak, a sweet small California town. The plot covers only two weeks of the sisters’ lives, and the tight timeline and quick pacing hooked me. I could barely put the book down, I needed to keep reading. I loved the story – it focuses on Cass and Charlie and asks the question: if you could change your life (or live someone else’s life) how would it change you? If you aren’t finding satisfaction and happiness in your relationships and career, what do you do? How far are you willing to go for happiness? It’s a deep question that plays out perfectly laid over a sweet and charming holiday romance, and with the amount of instability people have experienced over the last 18 months, super poignant for today’s readers.
Now, let’s talk about the romances; because this is a book about twins we get two romances, and I adored both. I loved the relationship between Cass and Miguel, the sexy physician assistant who treats Charlie when she gets her concussion, because there is some serious immediate chemistry between them, but Miguel is also incredibly caring and concerned. He worries about her health because he thinks she’s Charlie and takes her to meet his family for dinner after one week of dating because she’s important to him. When Charlie goes home and pretends to be Cass she meets a customer’s grandson, Jake, a firefighter with a heart of gold who lights her up. Jake is funny and charming doesn’t Charlie, who he thinks is Cass fresh off of a breakup, but just enjoys spending time with her. Both romances were sweet and fresh and fit the style of the book. Near the end of the book, at the height of a crisis, Jake and Miguel come together to help the twins, and I just need to say that I would happily have either Jake or Miguel rescue me.
This is a fabulous holiday romance with a strong cast of supporting characters (including a loveable dog and a charming cat), a dynamic plot and a lot of food descriptions as both Cass and Charlie are bakers. But at the heart of the story, is the relationship between Cass and Charlie: twins who have gone down separate life paths. Cass chose to stay in her hometown and run her family bakery and stay with her high school boyfriend. She thinks she’s happy and satisfied but yearns for something more. And then there’s Charlie, who took off and moved to the big city for schooling and became a professional chef and rising star in the cooking world who found fame on a reality baking show. On paper her life is perfect, but in reality, she’s lonely. At the root of The Holiday Swap is the question: does our life choices define who we are? And can we change our path if we’re brave enough? Cass and Charlie use their experiences to see how their lives could have been different if they’d chosen a different path. Where do they end up? Trust me, you’ll just have to read it to find out!
I was lucky to get an advanced digital copy of The Holiday Swap, and immediately bought a paperback version the week it was released so I could have a physical copy in my library. I adored The Holiday Swap and can’t wait to experience Cass’ and Charlie’s story again.
Thank you to Viking, an imprint of Penguin Canada, for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.