Watching cheesy Hallmark Holiday movies seems to be a regular Christmas tradition these days, but I’ve never seen one of these movies, and I don’t intend to start. I have so many questions about them too, mainly, where does one find them? Do you still have cable to access a Hallmark channel, or do you stream them? Unless it’s on Netflix, I have no hope in hell of ever seeing it, so I’ve gone in search of getting that same holiday glow through a book instead. I have found what I believe to be the perfect equivalent to the Hallmark movie, and that is The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox. It has all the same elements; attractive people, a small snowy town, a realization that one is working too hard in the ‘big city’, a potential problem that could keep the couple apart but doesn’t, and of course, a happy ending for everyone involved. I may not actively search out these books in my reading adventures, but I enjoy a nice romantic comedy every now and then and this book was just what I needed to kick-start my holiday reading.
Charlie and Cass are identical twins; Charlie is living in L.A. and one of the stars of a reality baking show, while her sister Cass is living a few hours north in the picture-perfect town of Starlight Peak and running the family’s bakery. It’s a few days before Christmas, and Charlie gets hit on the head by some falling pans and sustains a bad concussion, unfortunately she’s in the middle of an important television shoot – for the next few days she is vying for the head host position of a new baking show that’s sure to make her a star. Worried about losing this big break, she calls up her sister and asks her to switch places with her for the week, seeing as they both look the same and are both fantastic bakers, it shouldn’t be a problem. Cass is hesitant because the week before Christmas is extremely busy at the bakery, and Charlie isn’t used to filling so many orders for their famous Christmas Eve bread, but she eventually agrees knowing how important this job is to her sister. As you would expect, this switch reveals many (obvious?) differences between the twins, but to distract from these issues is the inclusion of two very handsome men who believe they are falling in love with the other twin; a firefighter, and physician’s assistant respectively. Everything turns out fine in the end, because it must in a book like this, but it is a heart-warming journey to reach the last few pages, as cliché as that sounds.
Am I the only one who ‘rewards’ myself with certain kinds of books? When I know a book is going to delight me I’m going to save it for when I know a stressful time is approaching. I save the more serious books that deal with difficult topics for a slower time in my personal life when I can give it the care and attention it deserves. I was saving The Holiday Swap because I knew it would be an easy read that would stir up some holiday excitement, and it most certainly fulfilled on its promise. It’s heavier on the romance and friendship themes than its focus on Christmas, but the lead up to Christmas Eve provides a joyful background to all the hectic activities in Charlie and Cass’s life, and I think we can all relate to this frantic feeling as the clock approaches Dec. 24. This book is guaranteed to blast away any humbugs one might be experiencing, and it’s focus on sugary treats may prompt an extra trip to the pantry as well, which depending on your perspective, may or may not be part of the your December traditions. I’ll admit to only rolling my eyes once at the very end, but this is par for the course in this genre, so I’m not mentioning that as a problem with the book, it’s more a problem with me and my inability to process cheesiness.
I appreciated the fact that this book focused so much on finding yourself and truly determining what makes you happy, and giving yourself the space to find the perfect career. Both Charlie and Cass chased their dreams, at least, what they thought were their dreams, but both were shocked to discover what they thought they wanted didn’t make them happy. So often women are shoehorned into certain stereotypes or career paths, but this book really explores the idea of making adjustments and placing boundaries, all in the hopes of forging a better path into the future. Even some of the supporting characters found new paths, which is a small element that I really enjoyed.
A cool little tidbit about this book that I can’t help mentioning is that Maggie Knox is a pseudonym for two Canadian authors: Karma Brown and Marissa Stapley. I love that two women wrote this book together – maybe one wrote as Cass and one as Charlie?