Book Review: The Christmas Swap

The Christmas Swap
Talia Samuels, 2023

New Release! A copy of this book was provided by Netgalley for the purpose of review. 

Margot and Ben are driving to Ben's family home for the holidays. So far, so normal. Except Margot and Ben met through work a week ago and aren't actually dating, but are planning to lie to Ben's family so his parents will stop making him feel bad for being single.

The story gets even wackier once Margot starts to actually fall for Ben's sister Ellie. Meanwhile, Ellie can tell something is weird about Margot and Ben's supposed relationship, but she jumps to a lot of downright farcical conclusions. 

This new holiday romance was quite good, although not exceptional. The characters do a few very dumb things that cause some painful miscommunications and misunderstandings, and those made me cringe. I've described the premise, and you need to be ready to suspend your disbelief a lot early on to get on board with Margot and Ben's initial plan as well as Ellie's immediate jump to the worst possible interpretation of everything. Also, who owns a country hotel and closes it for Christmas? Do they not like money?

However, once Margot and Ellie get on the same page, their romance is very cute. Very "I don't think of myself as romantic but YOU make me see stars" vibes from both of them. They're lucky that the author arranged a convenient happy ending for Ben as well so they aren't left being complete jerks for the way they treat him at one point.

However, I thought the best part of the book wasn't the romance, it was that both main characters (and several supporting characters) have other complex problems that are addressed in (eventually) healthy ways. 

Ellie, Ben, and their other sister Kate each struggle with their parents' expectations while they also each assume that the other siblings are doing just fine. This comes out in pieces throughout the book and I found their sibling relationships just as compelling as the romance.  

Margot, meanwhile, is just getting out of a long-term relationship, and it wasn't a good one. I thought the narration did a great job of slowly revealing to the reader that Taylor had been an abusive girlfriend, and how long it took (even sped up for the sake of the story) Margot to start to accept how unhealthy their dynamic had been and take little steps to help herself.

That said, how well everyone takes most of the various revelations and emotional conversations is often unrealistic, but such is romance. It's not so bad to read about people reacting in an objectively emotionally healthy way some of the time. 

There's a lot here to recommend this to fans of holiday romance and family dramas.