The Holiday Swap
It’s October, and you know what that means – yep, the time for Christmas books is upon us! The Holiday Swap is a cute if inessential entry into the field. It’s pretty heavy on the corn and cheese, and its sense of personality is influenced by same, but it’s a generally inoffensive offering.
Charlie and Cass Goodwin are a set of identical twins with completely different problems. Charlie is a co-host of a baking competition show called Sweet and Salty, and her nonstop issues with her sexually harassing co-star Austin Nash have not abated as the seasons have gone on. When on set filming one of a string of holiday specials for the show (entitled Cake My Day), Charlie gets bonked on the head and knocked unconscious. When she wakes up, she cannot taste or smell anything, which is a dire development for a baker who’s competing with a man she hates for the chance to host her own show. Desperate to avoid having Austin take over the show entirely, Charlie turns to the only person who can save her bacon – her twin sister, Cass.
Cass has been living in the tiny town of Starlight Peak, running the Woodburn Breads bakery with their parents and trying to get space from her practically-ex-boyfriend, Brett, who has just proposed marriage and bought a house for them, even though she’s firmly informed him that she needs space and time to think. It feels as if her destiny has been planned out for her, and that others have pigeonholed her as a sweet-tempered and kind baker. She dumps Brett though he declares she will definitely totally marry him no matter what (Note: Brett is a dick). Desperate to explore what Brett has referred to as a “quarter-life crisis”, Cass agrees to become Charlie and Charlie agrees to keep the family bakery afloat as Cass.
The sisters agree to trade lives for ten days – long enough for Cass to secure Charlie’s position on the new show for her, and Charlie must bake for the family shop during the busiest time of the year. They’ll switch back during the Christmas holiday. Sounds simple, right?
This, naturally, is easier said than done. Cass, naturally, is not used to the busy pace and go-go world of television production, and Charlie finds the grueling and yet mind-numbing pace of life in a bakery where she hasn’t worked since she was a teenager, dull. But it’s not all bad news. Charlie enjoys meeting the bakery regulars, while Cass begins to get the hang of baking for an audience. While Charlie – in the guise of Cass – starts to fall for handsome fireman Jake Greenman, grandson of one of Cass’ favorite customers, Cass begins to fall for kind Miguel Rodriguez, the physician’s assistant who has been assigned to make sure Charlie is healing from her concussion. All the while, the Christmas season counts down, and the twosome approach the date at which they must trade back their lives – but do they want that?
The Holiday Swap works on and off, and when it cooks it cooks. With shades of The Parent Trap without divorced parents, both of our heroines are likable, with clearly understandable struggles, and their happy endings are well-earned.
Their heroes are worth rooting for, too. The catty, sexist world of reality television is a well-trod subject, and Knox handles it as one would expect – I was disappointed that the nuance drowned in the fluff.
There is a big flaw in the writing – a tendency to cut away from dramatic scenes (eventually Brett is confronted, and we are robbed of that moment) and use clichés (yes, the twins feel each other’s pain). On the other hand, Knox definitely knows her food and writes about droolworthy pastries with a confident hand. And yes, this is another romance where the heroines pick country living over big city life.
The clichés are balanced by a sprightly pace and a good sense of character. The Holiday Swap is a warm and fluffy, frustrating and imperfect, but honey-sweet for those who want something soothing.