The Parent Trap But Make It Baking: A Review of The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox
Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.
Today I am having an existential crisis over the fact that it’s almost 2022. But that’s not what today’s post is about. Nay, nay. I have a book review for you this week.
Please welcome to the stage The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox!
Fun fact, Maggie Knox is actually a pseudonym for Karma Brown and Marissa Stapley. I was very surprised to learn this. I typically find there to be a disconnect in books that are authored by multiple writers, but I didn’t find that issue in The Holiday Swap. Kudos to the authors then.
Can we also talk about that cover real quick?
I’ve been obsessed with this style of illustrated covers as of late. I seriously am in love with this trend. This style of cover just screams super cute and cozy and sweet. And that’s pretty much what The Holiday Swap is. The cover perfectly conveys exactly what this book is about. It’s sweet, it deals with baked good, it takes place during the holiday season. I see this cover and I know what this story is; love that.
Onto the synopsis now. As always, a spoiler alert is in order. You’ve been warned.
The Holiday Swap is The Parent Trap meets Love Is Blind, but the couples are allowed to see each other...sort of. Meet Charlie and Cass, identical twin sisters who both work in the culinary field. Charlie is a famous host and judge of the baking competition Sweet and Salty, and Cass runs the multi-generational family bakery back home.
One day, Charlie is part of a freak accident on the set of Sweet and Salty. She ends up with a concussion that makes her lose her sense of smell and taste. Are we sure that’s a concussion, Charlie? Are we sure that ain’t Covid?
That point aside, this injury couldn’t come at a worse time. Charlie is in the middle of a competition herself. She and her co-host, Austin, are competing for a new hosting gig. Sweet and Salty is coming to an end, and will be replaced with a new, bigger, better show. The issue is, there will be only one host for this new show; meaning Austin and Charlie have to bring their A-game if they want that new gig. Her major injury has really wrecked her chances so there’s only one thing Charlie can do: call on her sister and switch places with her.
Cass agrees under one condition. Charlie has to get her twin’s ex-boyfriend to realize it’s truly over. Oh, and she also has to run the family bakery during the Christmas time rush. Sounds like a piece of cake. Pun intended. Also, throw in two very attractive men who are extremely interested in Cass and Charlie but don’t know their real identities just for a little extra holiday spice. Pun also intended.
I feel at this point everyone already knows everything that happens in this book. That’s okay though. That’s personally what I was looking for at this point in time. It is December and I do not want to think anymore. I do not want to read into subtext and symbols. I just want a straight to the point book with an easy to follow plot. I basically found the perfect book. The hardest thing was keeping Charlie and Cass straight which really wasn’t that hard to do.
The Holiday Swap is not without its faults though, but I want to start with the highlights today. I’m a big fan of the characters in this book. Charlie and Cass, while identical twins, do have major differences in their personalities. Charlie is very much a people pleaser while Cass relishes being her own boss. The authors really made sure the main characters were likable, different from one another, and had their flaws. I did worry that they would be too similar, but they have two separate voices. Points for that.
As far as side characters go, I need to give a shout out to Faye. She’s the saucy grandma who works as a guiding light/mentor for Charlie and Cass. She’s not fooled by their switchero at all, and she has a massive sweet tooth that rivals my own. I love her. But I do just have a soft spot in my heart for this type of character.
Also worth mentioning is the certified Good Girl of the story. Her name is Bonnie, she’s a Labrador with a lot of puppy left in her. I’d say she the unofficial fire department dog as her owner, one of the love interests, is a firefighter in the small town where part of our story takes place. The Holiday Swap gets bonus points for having a certified Good Girl.
I guess that means it’s time to talk about the love interests. Meet Jake and Miguel. Jake is our resident firefighter and Bonnie’s owner. Miguel is the tall, dark, and handsome physician assistant with a strong family oriented trait. I think you can tell I took to one of these men more than the other. Both are decent love interests, but truthfully, I don’t think the romance was the main focus of this book.
The main focus was on Charlie and Cass growing as people. Charlie had to learn how to stand up for herself and what she wants out of her life and career. And Cass had to learn how to break from her comfort zone in both her professional and personal life. Both love interests kinda just stood beside the twins and said, “you’re doing amazing, sweetie.” Nothing wrong with that, I think that’s what the twins needed at the time. Don’t get me wrong though, there are still plenty of heartwarming scenes involving the couples. Both pairs go through ups and downs, deal with the lies the twins are weaving, and have to overcome the existing way the love interests were known to the other sister. All and all, it's decent. It's some pretty standard romance stuff with some The Parent Trap-esque hijinks thrown in.
Basically this whole book can be summed up as feel-good Hallmark Christmas movie. If you like Hallmark Christmas movies, you’ll probably like this book. I really don’t have much more I can say on the matter.
I do have to say that I was disappointed in two main things. The first is the lack of recipes. This book is full of delicious baked goods. Side note, don’t read this book when you’re craving cake…or brownies…or any sort of pastry.
I’m not far off the mark when I say there are mentions of baked goods at least once per chapter. But there are no recipes to be seen. It’s not a major issue, or an issue at all if I'm being honest, but I would like to make some of those cakes that are described in delicious detail.
The second issue I have is the ending. The final chapter takes place a year after the main events of the book. In a year’s time, both Cass and Charlie’s lives change in so many ways. Everything has magically righted itself. The villains get what’s coming for them. The lovers are both in happy, healthy, amazing relationships. The bakery is thriving. Charlie is in charge of her own career. Love all of that. Love that for these characters. But everything feels super rushed. Like every single positive thing that could possibly happen for the twins happens.
It’s not satisfying. The main plot of the book ends at point A, and then the epilogue rushes to point C. I want to see the hard work these women put into their bakery and lives. Things go straight from “okay” to “happily ever after” in the blink of an eye. The bow this story is wrapped up in is too perfect. I’d rather the last chapter be cut, and the book instead left off at the “happy for now” ending where readers don't know how everything will be righted but know it's coming though.
With that, I am going to end things. Thank you all for joining me this week, but I must bid you all adieu. I shall see you next week with another romance. What? Two in a row? What has happened to me!? I must not be the real Hannah...
Until next time, stay safe, wear a mask, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.