"An utterly adorable, pitch-perfect romance with just the right amount of Christmas cheer. The Holiday Swap is a pure delight, I couldn’t stop from smiling."-- Taylor Jenkins Reid, NYT bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six
A feel-good, holiday-themed romantic comedy about identical twins who switch lives in the days leading up to Christmas.
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 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?
About the author
Maggie Knox is the pen name for bestselling Canadian writing duo Karma Brown and Marissa Stapley. Brown is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author of five novels, including the #1 national bestseller Recipe for a Perfect Wife, as well as the non-fiction bestseller The 4% Fix: How one hour can change your life. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Self, Redbook, Today’s Parent, and Chatelaine. She lives just outside Toronto with her family and a labradoodle named Fred. Stapley is a former magazine editor and New York Times bestselling author of Reese’s Book Club Pick Lucky, as well as international bestsellers Mating for Life, Things to Do When It’s Raining, and The Last Resort. Many of her novels have been optioned for television and her journalism has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Elle, Today’s Parent, and Reader’s Digest. She lives in Toronto with her family and a precocious black cat named Oscar. The Holiday Swap was their first novel writing together as Maggie Knox and is a Canadian bestseller.
Excerpt: The Holiday Swap (by (author) Maggie Knox)
Monday: 12 Days to Christmas . . .
Charlie Goodwin drew a shaky breath and tapped furiously on her phone, the screen illuminating her face in the otherwise dark storeroom. She opened an app and searched for the emergency two-minute stress-release meditation. Once the soothing voice began, she closed her eyes and took another deep breath, trying to slow her frantic heartbeat. But all that did was bring the sharp scent of peppermint extract further up her nose and into her throat. Normally she loved the smell of peppermint and all Christmas-related things. But this had been sabotage. She smelled like a giant candy cane-and she wasn't feeling very festive about it.
Her phone buzzed in her hand and she cracked an eye, glancing at the screen. Priya Basu, her friend and on-set makeup artist.
Don't let him get to you.
He's a jerk and you're YOU.
Priya was right. Sighing with frustration, Charlie leaned her head back against the wall. She whispered the mantra in time with her exhales and peppermint-scented inhales: Don't let him get to you.
Austin Nash. Someone she had a sour history with and her co-host on the network reality baking show Sweet & Salty, which had run for two seasons but was slated to be replaced by a new show, called Bake My Day, after the holidays. The current Sweet & Salty special they were co-hosting-a twelve-days-to-Christmas countdown, featuring twelve amateur bakers vying for the top spot and twenty-five thousand dollars-was meant to be festive and fun. However, Austin Nash left Charlie feeling more bah-humbug than merry and bright. This holiday special was also Charlie's last chance to impress the network executives and secure the Bake My Day hosting job, which would mean the end of having to share a stage with Austin Nash.
The two had known each other back in culinary school, where she'd discovered Austin was more cheater than chef after she'd caught him co-opting one of her recipes as his own. But he was slick, and she could never prove it. After school Charlie headed to Paris for a coveted internship with a celebrated Parisian pastry chef, and Austin went to New York City and, really, she hadn't thought of him again.
Charlie had been "discovered" by the formidable television producer Sasha Torres-who was now her boss . . . and Austin's. Sasha had come into Souci-the L.A. hot spot where Charlie had made a name for herself as head pastry chef since her return from Paris. Charlie had been tasked with presenting Sasha's table with the flambéed cherries the restaurant was known for. Sasha offered Charlie the "Sweet" hosting side of the reality baking show on the spot.
While it had meant giving up the security of Souci, Charlie had known it could lead to even greater, more exciting opportunities-like the chance to be a solo host on a syndicated cooking show like Bake My Day-becoming an established name in the culinary world. Maybe even have her own line of cookbooks. However, what a somewhat naïve but highly ambitious Charlie hadn't realized when she said yes to Sasha's offer was that she'd be sharing the stage with her culinary school nemesis, Austin Nash.
"Worst luck ever, Goodwin," Charlie grumbled, momentarily pulled out of her meditation mantra as she thought back to that day, almost a year ago now. Apparently Austin had gotten the job because he was friends with the son of one of the network executives, yet he behaved as though he deserved to be there more than Charlie. From their first moment on set Austin had been deceptively charming and self-assured, while Charlie was initially a nervous wreck-television hosting had pushed her out of her comfort zone. And it didn't hurt that, according to Sasha, Austin looked like a young Rob Lowe. With his impossibly perfect hair, chiseled jaw, and blue eyes with lashes for days, Austin became the "Salty" half of the duo, and it wasn't long before things went south on set between the co-hosts.
Initially Charlie had tried to give Austin the benefit of the doubt. Even if he proved as infuriating as he had been at school, Charlie was prepared to deal with it-because this kind of opportunity didn't come along every day. But it was soon clear Austin Nash had changed...and not for the better. For one, he had developed this particularly obnoxious routine, where he would give shoulder massages while delivering condescending advice, regardless of whether either was wanted or warranted. "One more minute of boiling and that pâté à choux would have been sublime, Charlie. Next time."
Things got even worse when the network announced the show that would replace Sweet & Salty-Bake My Day. It would be a one-host show-which meant Charlie and Austin were now competing for one job. Plus, with a one-hundred-thousand-dollar grand prize, a recipe featured in a celebrity chef cookbook, and professionally trained participants, Bake My Day was going to make Sweet & Salty look like amateur hour.
No co-host to have to share the spotlight with; no grating or witty banter between two people who really couldn't stand one another; more freedom to spread her creative wings; and a lot more money because Bake My Day had an impressive budget. Charlie wanted the job, and she deserved it. She was the better pastry chef, and it was no secret that, of the two of them, she was easier to work with. She had noticed Sasha's eye rolls at Austin's arrogance on more than one occasion.
Working with Austin had become mentally exhausting, and Charlie was glad the special would wrap soon. He was always getting on her case, then laughing it off and saying it was all part of his "Salty" persona. Today, she had been so distracted by him she'd delivered her lines in the wrong order-something that never happened-and just before she'd escaped to the stockroom to get her thoughts together, he had pounced on her momentary lapse.
"What's up with you today, Charlie? A case of the Mondays?" He'd known they were still miked and that everyone, including Sasha, would hear. He then made a show of putting a hand on her shoulder and rubbing it, faking concern. "Don't worry. I can pick up the slack. I have both our scripts memorized."
Before Charlie could respond, let alone brush his hand away, the bottle of peppermint extract-which Austin was supposed to have capped after measuring out a tablespoon for the candy cane truffles they were making-tipped over, emptying quickly across the stainless-steel worktable and soaking into Charlie's skirt.
"Oh," Austin said as Charlie jumped back, though too late. "Thought the lid was on tight. My bad."
Charlie smiled wanly at him, curtly said, "It's fine," and then asked Sasha if they could take five. None of the contestants were on set; they were filming B-roll so the timeline was more flexible-although Sasha always ran things like they were trying to beat the clock. Charlie escaped to the storeroom where they kept the pots, pans, and baking dishes, knowing she only had a few moments to try and meditate away Austin Nash.
It wasn't working. Instead, along with her frustration, she felt something she hadn't in a long time: Charlie was homesick. Starlight Peak, her hometown only a few hours north of Los Angeles, was so festive this time of year, with sugary snowcapped mountains as backdrop, and every home, shop, and street corner laden with Christmas decorations. Life in quaint Starlight Peak was so much simpler than city life. And the best part about her hometown? Austin Nash wasn't there.
Suddenly, the storage room's overhead fluorescent bulbs lit up with a flash. Charlie quickly pushed off the wall, dropping her phone to the ground. She and Austin's new assistant, Nathan (she made it a habit to learn everyone's names, no matter what their role on the show), stared at each other for a moment, the melodic voice coming from the meditation app on her phone the only sound in the room. Now focus on your shoulders...how much tension are you holding there...Breathe into your belly...Be aware of all the sensations in your body...
Nathan sneezed-likely the peppermint extract-then cleared his throat, his Adam's apple bobbing. He was obviously nervous to have interrupted the show's "talent," especially when she was clearly not having the best day. "Oh, uh, sorry, Ms. Goodwin. I didn't realize-"
"Hi, Nathan. It's fine. Don't worry about it." Charlie picked up her phone and stopped the meditation. "And call me Charlie, okay?"
Charlie wondered about Nathan's story, what his great L.A. dream was. This town was filled with a lot of ambition. It was rare to meet someone who wasn't hustling a few jobs at least, hoping for their big break.
"Did Sasha ask you to come in here and get me?" Charlie asked.
"Well," Nathan said, drawing out the word. "Kind of? But she also told me to season a few of the frying pans for the next segment." He was shorter than Charlie, who stood about five-seven without shoes, and he had to go up on his toes as he reached past the Christmas decorations for the nonstick enamel pans on the top shelf. That was when Charlie knew that whatever Nathan's big dream was, it had nothing to do with cooking.
"We don't season nonstick pans," Charlie said, tucking her phone into the pocket of her skirt and rubbing her nose against another minty tickle. "The coating can crack." She reached for one of the cast-iron pans. "Here. Cast iron. The workhorse of the kitchen."
Nathan took the pan from her, misjudging the weight and then cringing as he almost lost his grip.
"Nothing caramelizes like cast iron," Charlie said, putting a hand under the pan until the assistant reset his grip. On the menu today was a cupcake variation of a pineapple upside-down cake with a spiced bourbon sauce to keep it holiday themed, and Charlie knew the cast iron would be best to coax out the fruit's sticky dark syrup, which was necessary to showcase the dessert's complexity.
"Thanks, Charlie. Sasha said to grab a few." Nathan reached up again for another of the cast-iron pans, then turned back to her. "Can I just say? You're so natural on camera. You're really funny, too, you know? And the only one to suggest the cast iron instead-"
Charlie wasn't sure exactly how it happened, but a second later the entire shelving unit-where dozens of pans were stored-was tipping over. There was a moment where Charlie thought she and Nathan would be able to stop the shelf's trajectory, both of them putting their hands out to try and brace the metal unit. They might have been successful, if not for the pots and pans-unanchored on the shelves-obeying the dictates of gravity. The entire unit toppled toward them. Nathan shouted something she couldn't hear above the calamitous noise of all that metal hitting the floor. Then Charlie felt a deep, sharp pain in her head before everything went black.
Charlie opened her eyes slowly. Someone was crying, but she couldnÕt figure out who it was because she couldnÕt make her eyes focus. She also had the worst headache of her life, and felt nauseated and fuzzy all over. She tried to lift her arm to her head, and then realized she was on the floor. Someone was holding her other hand-the same person who was crying, it seemed. There were a lot of voices adding to the confusion. Charlie let her eyes close, wishing everyone would just stop talking.
"Charlie? Can you hear me? Charlie, babe, open those gorgeous brown eyes of yours." Priya sounded panicked. Charlie wondered what had happened. "Let's get these off you." Charlie opened her eyes and glanced down to see what Priya was doing, which was to remove the swaths of fake holly and branches of snow-crusted cranberries that lay across her skirt. Why was she on the ground, under a blanket of Christmas decorations?
"Priya, stop crying." As Charlie's vision improved, the makeup artist's worried face finally came into view, only a few inches from her own.
"Oh my God! You're okay. You're okay." Priya launched herself onto Charlie and held her in a bear hug. Then she pulled back and gently slapped her on her upper arm. "You scared the heck out of me!"
"Here. Help me up," Charlie said, grabbing clumsily for her friend's hands. This headache was like none she'd had before, and she gritted her teeth against the pain. As a relative nondrinker, she had felt pain like this only once before. Charlie and her identical twin sister, Cass (who handled alcohol much better than she did), had drunk two bottles of champagne the night before Charlie left for L.A. It had been the most miserable drive the next morning, with Charlie having to pull over multiple times on the trip from Starlight Peak to Santa Monica to be sick. She hadn't touched champagne, or really any alcohol, since that day.
"Stay down a minute longer, Charlie," a male voice to her right said. She turned to see the show's medic-whose name was escaping her, but who had bandaged up one of the contestants yesterday after she'd flayed her palm with a knife trying to cut a mango. He had a daughter, and a dog with a funny name...What is his name?
Charlie was horrified to see all the faces leaning over her. Including Austin, who-unlike the rest of the group-appeared almost pleased. "What happened?" she asked.
Standing by Charlie's feet, Sasha frowned. She glanced at the medic, who was feeling around Charlie's scalp. Charlie's high ponytail had been loosened and some wavy dark blond strands were in her eyes. She tried to brush them away, but the medic told her to stay still.
"You don't remember?" Sasha asked.
Charlie tried to recall any sort of memory about why she was on the floor in the stockroom. Then she saw Nathan sitting against the wall, a bandage on his forehead and a sling on his arm. He looked worse than she felt. "Is Nathan okay?"
"An entire shelving unit of pots fell onto your head, Charlie! You could have died!" Priya was wringing her hands, her glossy plum-colored nails going around and around. Charlie loved her friend, but she was known for her dramatic flair-both with her makeup brushes and her personality. As claustrophobia crept in, Charlie wished everyone would leave so she could pull herself together in private.
But then Austin was back in her sight line, his handsome face annoyingly smug. "Sasha, I've had a lot of concussions in my day playing football, and you really shouldn't mess around. We definitely want Charlie at her best, don't we? She should be checked out at the hospital-she took a pretty big bump to her head."
Sasha nodded, then turned to the medic. “Sam, what do you think?” Sam! That was his name. Charlie felt momentarily energized by also remembering that Sam’s daughter’s name was Bernadette, and that she had named their dog Pancake after her favourite food.
“Sasha, I’m fine.” Charlie sat up, too quickly, and immediately wilted back against Sam as he braced her shoulders from behind.
“Doesn’t look like it,” Austin said. “Look, I can do the rest of the shots on my own. Then Charlie can go and get the care she needs.” Charlie did her best to glower at her co-host, who feigned a worried expression she didn’t buy for a second.
“Probably not a bad idea,” Sam said, peering around to look into her eyes. “What day is it, Charlie?”
“What’s the name of the show?” Sam asked.
“Sweet and Salty’s Twelve Days to Christmas Countdown,” Charlie said. “I’m okay. Really. Can I get up?”
“Let me help,” Austin said, reaching out a hand just as Charlie grabbed on to Sam’s arms and hoisted herself up. Priya swatted gently at Charlie’s full skirt, trying to rid it of the pixie dust.
“Come on,” Priya said. “Let’s fix up your hair and makeup.”
The Globe and Mail's "14 books from 2021 that will bring comfort and joy to your holiday reading"
CBC's "13 books for the romantic comedy lover on your holiday shopping list"
CBC's "24 funny books for your holiday shopping list”
Toronto Star's "25 books for the readers on your holiday list"
Elle’s "10 Books You’ll Want to Read This Fall”
Loan Stars' "Best of the Brightest 2021"
Yahoo’s "15 Books Guaranteed to Get You in the Holiday Spirit"
Yahoo’s “Festive Books That Are Like Hallmark Movies on Paper”
“An utterly adorable, pitch-perfect romance with just the right amount of Christmas cheer. The Holiday Swap is a pure delight, I couldn’t stop from smiling.”
—Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six
“I love this book! It is deliciously fun and wildly romantic, and the dual settings of a baking show set in LA and a family-run bakery in a small snowy town feels like Great British Bakeoff meets Gilmore Girls.… I wanted to befriend the twins, throttle the villains, fall in love with the heroes—and bake up some sourdough.”
—Jennifer Robson, international bestselling author of The Gown
“It’s double the treats and double the trouble as twins swap holidays and dramas in this delightful yuletide romance from Knox…There’s both tenderness and comedy as the sisters rediscover their priorities and sibling bond while hilariously struggling to draw the line between their roles and reality. This light romantic romp is delicious fun, perfect for rom-com fans in need of some Christmas cheer.”
"[T]his is smart women’s fiction with an unabashedly festive theme. A book to curl up with during the holidays."
“I devoured this delightful romantic comedy in two nights. It's like Gilmore Girls meets The Parent Trap meets Cake Wars. In other words, it's perfect.”
—Colleen Oakley, USA Today bestselling author of You Were There Too
“The Holiday Swap dishes up a double dose of fun-loving, feel-good, Christmas cheer, with a recipe for love that’s deliciously irresistible.”
—Karen Schaler, author of Finding Christmas
“The Holiday Swap is the cozy holiday rom-com you crave, complete with double the swoony meet-cutes, scrumptious desserts, and happily-ever-afters. With small-town gossip and reality-TV drama, Maggie Knox serves up a treat that will have foodie fiction fans begging for seconds.”
—Amy E. Reichert, author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake
“This debut from Maggie Knox about twins who swap places for 12 days at Christmas is twice the fun, double the trouble and all the feels. Warm cozy bakeries, cold snowy nights, holiday traditions and two-TWO!-romances to steal my heart—what’s not to love? The smart, quick-paced writing, witty dialogue and swoon-worthy date scenes had me up all night, turning the pages to see what would happen next. I absolutely adored this book—and I can’t wait for more rom-coms from Maggie Knox!”
—Chantel Guertin, bestselling author of Instamom
“The cheery romcom has a premise worthy of a Netflix movie.”
“Every bit as warm and cozy as a Hallmark Christmas movie."
“Fun and quick-witted. . . . Knox assembles a memorable cast and whips up inventive switched-lives scenarios filled with a host of mishaps that double the fun. Delightfully romantic plot twists further sweeten this lighthearted, feel-good story--with a message--that is sure to make rom-com readers hunger for whatever Knox decides to dish up next.”
"This is just what I was looking for: a light but sophisticated romance, a much-needed escape. When a baking reality show co-host competing for a promotion and her also-culinary-minded twin swap places, hilarious (and more serious) events transpire."
—Deborah Leiderman, The New York Times