THE HOLIDAY SWAP by Maggie Knox

October 27, 2021

From the publisher:

The International Bestseller—A feel-good, holiday rom com about identical twins who swap lives twelve days before Christmas—perfect for fans of Christina Lauren’s In a Holidaze and Josie Silver’s One Day in December
 
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?


I love this time of year with all the Christmas romances, and I was super excited about this one because of this blurb:

The Great British Bake Off AKA The Great British Baking Show here in America was my happy place during the pandemic, and I’m loving the new season as well. I am a long time Gilmore Girls fan – my daughter and I started watching when she was in middle school, and it is one of my comfort TV watches (is that a thing? It is for me!). In fact, I recently started re-watching the series a few weeks ago, for about the tenth time? So Jennifer Robson, shame on you for this blurb. There’s no tent, no contestants helping each other out, no Lorelai & Rory, no Kirk, no Taylor, no Luke! The closest I could get to Stars Hollow was the small town where the twins family bakery is, called Starlight Peak. Not even close. I have serious doubts that Robson even read it.

Enough ranting about a blurb – the book was good despite my dashed expectations.

Charlie and Cass are identical twins and both love to bake, but they took it in different directions. Charlie couldn’t wait to leave the family bakery and the small California town and went to culinary school to perfect her pastry skills. Cass stayed home and is now running the family business while their parents are traveling. Cass has a long time boyfriend who is pushing her to get married, but she realizes that over the years they have grown apart, so she tells him she needs time to think. He takes that as a yes and buys them a house. She is furious, and breaks up with him – or at least tries to, he’s not taking no for an answer.

Charlie has found success on reality TV cooking shows, and is co-hosting a holiday baking show with a super ambitious and totally obnoxious co-host. They are both up to host a new baking show solo, and Charlie is determined to win that job. An accident on set takes her out, but despite her concussion and the cute ER doctor telling her to take time off, she is determined to finish out the show. But then she realizes she has lost her sense of smell and taste, so how will she be able to judge anything?

Enter the oldest trick in the book, the Parent Trap if you will: identical twins changing places. Cass is happy to get out of town and away from her ex and is hoping that Charlie will be able to convince him they are done. Charlie needs this job and hopes Cass can fool everyone enough to ensure she gets the solo hosting gig.

Then Charlie has a small kitchen fire and one of the firemen really catches her eye. It seems the attraction is mutual, except he thinks she is Cass and that is not a great way to start a relationship. Meanwhile, Cass runs into the cute ER doctor and things heat up there, with him thinking she is Charlie. Let’s just say hijinks ensue until the happy ending is reached for both twins.

No real surprises here, just a sweet Christmas romance which worked for me. Enjoy!

NOTE: The author, Maggie Knox, is actually Karma Brown’s and Marissa Stapley’s first joint project writing under that pseudonym.

10/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE HOLIDAY SWAP by Maggie Knox. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (October 5, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593330739. 352 pages.

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NO ORDINARY CHRISTMAS by Belle Calhoune

October 13, 2021

From the publisher:

Mistletoe, Maine, is buzzing and not just because Christmas is around the corner! Dante West, local cutie-turned-Hollywood hunk, is returning home to make his next movie. Everyone in town is excited . . . except librarian Lucy Marshall. When Dante took off for LA without warning—or even a goodbye—he broke Lucy’s heart. She swore not to spend one more minute thinking about her ex, but Dante makes an offer Lucy’s struggling library can’t refuse: a major donation to film on-site.

Dante is thrilled to help boost his hometown’s economy and finally begin making amends to the people he hurt years ago when he left, starting with Lucy. But seeing his former best friend on set every day feels a lot less like closure and more like a fresh start. It’s one thing for Dante to fall for Lucy all over again, quite another for a famous movie star and a small-town librarian to find lasting romance. Can the magic of the holiday season give Lucy and Dante’s first love a second chance?


The holiday romances are upon us. In fact, this one is from last month and I’m just catching up! This is a sweet, small town romance. Dante and Lucy were best friends since elementary school and in high school, started dating. Things got pretty serious and they made a lot of plans for their future. But one night Dante just took off, and Lucy didn’t hear from him for several months. By then, he was in California, chasing his dream of acting. He broke Lucy’s heart and now it is almost nine years later and she really hasn’t recovered. She is still in love with him.

Dante becomes a huge movie star, and the tiny town of Mistletoe, Maine becomes his next project. He’s written a script, a love story, about him and Lucy, and returns to his hometown to film the movie. They throw him a parade, but Lucy is in shock. When she does run into him, she lets him have it and storms off.

Dante wants to film part of the movie in the library where Lucy is the manager. He talks her into it by promising her a big donation, which the library desperately needs. She knows if she turns him down, the library will suffer, not to mention the mayor would overrule her anyway. The next thing you know they are spending some time together.

Lucy finds herself falling in love with Dante all over again. She tries to fight it at first, but eventually gives in. What she doesn’t realize is that when he left, Dante’s heart was also broken and he’s never stopped loving her. There are many hurdles for them to reach their happily ever after, and it is a lot of fun to get there.

This author was new to me, but I will certainly read anything else she writes. I really enjoyed this holiday romance – it was a gift!

10/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

NO ORDINARY CHRISTMAS by Belle Calhoune. Forever (September 28, 2021). ISBN: 978-1538735985. 336 pages.

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THE SANTA SUIT by Mary Kay Andrews 

September 30, 2021

From the publisher:

From Mary Kay Andrews, the New York Times bestselling author of Hello, Summer, comes a novella celebrating the magic of Christmas and second chances in The Santa Suit.

When newly-divorced Ivy Perkins buys an old farmhouse sight unseen, she is definitely looking for a change in her life. The Four Roses, as the farmhouse is called, is a labor of love―but Ivy didn’t bargain on just how much labor. The previous family left so much furniture and so much junk, that it’s a full-time job sorting through all of it.

At the top of a closet, Ivy finds an old Santa suit―beautifully made and decades old. In the pocket of a suit she finds a note written in a childish hand: it’s from a little girl who has one Christmas wish, and that is for her father to return home from the war. This discovery sets Ivy off on a mission. Who wrote the note? Did the man ever come home? What mysteries did the Rose family hold?

Ivy’s quest brings her into the community, at a time when all she wanted to do was be left alone and nurse her wounds. But the magic of Christmas makes miracles happen, and Ivy just might find more than she ever thought possible: a welcoming town, a family reunited, a mystery solved, and a second chance at love.


As readers of this blog know, I love Mary Kay Andrews, and I was so excited to see she has written a holiday romance! It has her all of her trademark humor, love of kitsch and everything vintage, and terrific characters I wanted to hang out with.

Ivy’s been divorced for just about a year. Her ex-husband really hurt her and made her distrustful. She not only lost her husband, but she also lost her house (she got paid for her half) and her very successful business (again she got paid for her half.) She decides she wants to make a drastic change in her life and finds this old farmhouse called the Four Roses for sale online. She buys it sight unseen.

When she arrives, her real estate agent is there to meet her with the key. He tries to tell her more about the house and its sticking front door lock, for instance, but she brushes him off. Until she can’t get in and has to call him back. Ezra is not the old man Ivy assumed him to be from his name. Instead, he is about her age, young and good looking. Which makes her nervous.

The big surprise of the house isn’t how ramshackle it is, that she expected more or less. But the fact that the family left everything behind. The owners had died years earlier, and their son didn’t want any of it. Cleaning out the house was going to be a huge project.

The Four Roses was known in town as the place to go to look at all the Christmas lights. All of that was left behind as well, including the beautiful Santa suit the owner wore every year. And in the pocket was a note from a little girl, Carlette, asking Santa to bring her daddy back from Vietnam. Ivy is intrigued and asks the one friend she’s made in town if she knew anything about it. Turns out she did, her mom was best friends with their across the street neighbor, Carlette. The dad didn’t make it, and Carlette and her mom moved away.

Meanwhile, Ezra is slowly wearing down her defenses. He’s just incredibly helpful and she finally agrees to go out with him. Ivy meets the old man who is living in Carlette’s old house and more of the mystery is solved. But it’s at the town’s Christmas Stroll that everything comes together, all tied up with a bow you might say, but with some surprises at the end.

If you are looking for a way to get in the holiday mood, this is a great start. It’s a novella, so pretty short and fast reading (I wish it were longer!) It’s heart warming, sweet, and fun – all the good stuff I look for in a Christmas book. Happy holidays!

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE SANTA SUIT by Mary Kay Andrews. St. Martin’s Press (September 28, 2021). ISBN: 978-1250279316. 220 pages.

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CHRISTMAS AT THE RESTAURANT by Pamela Kelley

July 16, 2021

The Nantucket Restaurant Series, Book 2

From the publisher:

Nantucket’s famous Christmas Stroll is always the first week of December and this year sisters Mandy and Emma and Paul, the executive chef want to do something extra special for Mimi’s Place, the restaurant that they co-own. 

 It will be Emma and Paul’s first Christmas together as a couple and Mandy’s first holiday as a newly single and divorced mother of two. Although Mandy does have a promising new relationship, though she wants to take things very slow. 

Their sister Jill and her new husband, Billy, are planning to spend the whole month of December on Nantucket too, juggling working remotely for the executive search firm they own together in Manhattan and relaxing and spending time with family and helping out at the restaurant too. 

And Gina, their awesome bartender is spending her first winter on Nantucket and it’s a bit of an adjustment–winters on Nantucket are so much quieter than the city life she was used to. She’s even more confused when someone she had a major crush on back in the city moves to Nantucket. Suddenly her boring winter is starting to look a lot more interesting.


I recently found this series so I was excited to see that the second book was a Christmas story, just in time for the Christmas in July summer extravaganza. It was not meant for that, but it’s how it fell into my lap. So be it. It’s a fun read and a nice break from the Hallmark Channel movie bonanza. I don’t have as much patience with those movies, I can’t watch more than one a week at most. But books? I’m all in. This may even be a Hallmark movie, I didn’t check.

I loved reconnecting with the characters from the first book, but the romance is centered around the new bartender, Gina, and two men she starts dating. But I really enjoyed catching up with the sisters and seeing how their relationships were doing a year later. Nantucket in winter was fun, too, and while I didn’t enjoy this as much as the first book, it was still an enjoyable read. If you need a little holiday magic in your summer, look no further!

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

CHRISTMAS AT THE RESTAURANT by Pamela Kelley. Piping Plover Press (December 10, 2020). ISBN: 978-1953060044. 216 pages.

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MISTLETOE & MR. RIGHT by Sarah Morgenthaler

July 15, 2021

Moose Springs, Alaska Series, Book 2

From the publisher:

How the moose (almost) stole Christmas.

Lana Montgomery is everything the quirky small town of Moose Springs, Alaska can’t stand: a rich socialite with dreams of changing things for the better. But Lana’s determined to prove that she belongs…even if it means trading her stilettos for snow boots and tracking one of the town’s hairiest Christmas mysteries: the Santa Moose, an antlered Grinch hell-bent on destroying every bit of holiday cheer (and tinsel) it can sink its teeth into.

And really…how hard could it be?

The last few years have been tough on Rick Harding, and it’s not getting any easier now that his dream girl’s back in town. When Lana accidentally tranquilizes him instead of the Santa Moose, it’s clear she needs help, fast…and this could be his chance to finally catch her eye. It’s an all-out Christmas war, but if they can nab that darn moose before it destroys the town, Rick and Lana might finally find a place where they both belong…together.


‘Tis the season! Christmas in July, of course. If you’ve been enjoying the Hallmark Channel’s celebration in film, why not in books as well? This is a terrific book to get you going.

This is one of my favorite series, and I’ve read all three books; The Tourist Attraction (Book 1) and Enjoy the View (book 3) and of course this one. They are all really fun reads. I love the Alaska setting and the characters are really well developed, I couldn’t help but care about them.

This is a light, funny read with all the charm of a small town Christmas. Most of the laughs come from the moose that is running amok and from the characters, too. This was a laugh out loud book for me, and a sweet romance, my favorite combination for pure escape reading. If you want to extend your Christmas in July celebration, have fun with this terrific read.

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MISTLETOE & MR. RIGHT by Sarah Morgenthaler. Sourcebooks Casablanca (October 6, 2020). ISBN: 978-1492693161. 400 pages.

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25 DAYS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS by Poppy Alexander

January 10, 2020

CLICK TO PURCHASE

From the publisher:

In this heartwarming, feel-good holiday novel, one woman needs to find a little inspiration in the 25 days leading up to Christmas to help her remember the magic of the season and the magic of falling in love—perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan and Josie Silver.

Kate Potter used to love Christmas. A few years ago, she would have been wrapping her presents in September and baking mince pies on Halloween, counting down the days and hours to Christmas. But that was before Kate’s husband left for the army and never came home. Now she can hardly stand December at all.

Kate can’t deny she’s lonely, yet she doesn’t think she’s ready for romance. She knows that her son, Jack, needs a Christmas to remember—just like Kate needs a miracle to help her finally move forward with her life. So she’s decided if there isn’t a miracle on its way, she’ll just have to make her own.

As Kate’s advent countdown to the best Christmas ever begins, she soon realizes that even with the best laid plans, you can’t plan for the unexpected. For when the path of the loneliest woman in town crosses with that of the loneliest man, these two destined hearts might find a way to save the holiday for both of them.


For some reason, I missed this book. I had probably a dozen Christmas books to read this year, and unfortunately, I started and put down the vast majority of them. There were a couple I finished that were okay, and one that I liked a lot. So when I finally read this one, I was sorry I missed it earlier. It was really good. If (unlike me) you want to read your Christmas books before the holiday, grab this one and set it aside until you’re ready. I promise, it is worth it. I like how the book is set up like an Advent calendar. Each chapter is titled by the number of days until Christmas, counting down to the big day. It would be fun to read it that way if you are saving it for next Christmas.

This is a British import so right away I liked the quirky little town and its characters. Kate is a struggling young widow with a little boy who is having some difficulties in school. She is fierce in her love for her boy, and determined to do her best by him, one way or another. Ever since she lost her husband, she hasn’t felt much like celebrating Christmas but she decides this year it is important to celebrate for Jack. Kate is working as a Christmas elf selling trees outside a department store. She hardly makes any money and her boss is a pig. She has regular customers and one she remembers well is Daniel. He is very good looking, but she remembers him more for bringing his sister to get a tree the past couple of years. She has seen the young woman go downhill over that time, and the prior Christmas she was in a wheelchair. Daniel always thought of Kate as “Christmas Tree Girl” and appreciated how kind she was to his sister. When he comes alone this year, she realizes something must have happened.

Daniel and Kate are like two ships passing in the night until an event brings them together. They are both very lonely, and Kate especially isn’t sure she is ready for a relationship. But ultimately this is a romance so you know they will have their happy ending. At times their stories are quite sad, but essentially this is an uplifting and lovely holiday read.

1/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

25 DAYS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS by Poppy Alexander.  Berkley (October 15, 2019). ISBN 978-1984804006. 320p.

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A COWBOY UNDER THE MISTLETOE by Jessica Clare

December 8, 2019

Click to purchase

The Wyoming Cowboys Series, Book 3

From the publisher:

‘Tis the season for starting over for one military man turned cowboy in this new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of The Cowboy and His Baby.

Former Navy master-at-arms Jason Clements is down on his luck and calling in one last favor. His cousin has secured him a job opportunity as a cowboy working at Price Ranch in Wyoming. Too bad Jason has never even saddled a horse. If he can keep this job without his PTSD getting in the way, it’ll be a Christmas miracle.

Local busybody Sage Cooper loves Painted Barrel something fierce, but it’s time for her to move on. Since her father passed away, the family ranch feels too big for just her, and there’s no chance of finding a husband in this small town. To the rest of the world, she’s just another local fixture, known for her closet full of ugly Christmas sweaters and being perpetually single.

It isn’t until Jason shows up in desperate need of a cowboy crash course that Sage discovers a tall, dark, and handsome reason to stick around. And with the holidays coming up, Sage is in need of a date for a special event—maybe they’ll turn out to be each other’s best Christmas present.


This romance ticked a lot of boxes that I really like; damaged characters, small town, cowboys, and Christmas.

Sage has no self-esteem. Living in this small town, she’s had a long-standing crush on a man who is about to marry. Someone else. She lost her mom as an infant, and her dad fairly recently, leaving her alone on a big ranch in a big empty house. She has decided to sell the ranch in the spring, and move to a larger community, in hopes of meeting someone.

Jason suffers from PTSD, but his cousin landed him this job as a cowboy, of all things. He’s never even been on a horse, much less a ranch. Desperate for help, he wanders into what passes for a library in this small town, a few shelves of books and the town’s only employee, Sage. She ignores his symptoms and lends him a helping hand with a crash course in ranching. Sage has a calming effect on Jason, and a relationship begins.

This was a warm, holiday read filled with love and grace and hope. A wonderful holiday romance!

12/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

A COWBOY UNDER THE MISTLETOE by Jessica Clare.  Berkley (October 15, 2019). ISBN 978-1984804006. 320p.

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Merry Christmas 2018!

December 25, 2018

Thank you to all my readers, those who comment, those who email, and those who just lurk. I know you’re there and I appreciate every one of you!

Last week I had another eye surgery and am slowly recovering. Hopefully, this will be the last, at least for a long, long time. I’m very hopeful that my vision will return soon. Fortunately, I am still able to read! This, working on a computer, is especially difficult right now. But this too shall pass.

I wish you all a joyous holiday season. I hope you get to share it with people you love and of course, good books to read!


TONY’S WIFE by Adriana Trigiani

November 20, 2018

Click book cover to purchase

From the publisher:

Love, ambition, and the consequences of both lie at the heart of this spellbinding epic of two working-class kids who become a successful singing act during the big band era of the 1940s.

Chi Chi Donatelli and Saverio Armandonada meet one summer on the Jersey shore before World War II. Chi Chi is a talented and ambitious singer-songwriter working in a local blouse factory looking for her big break, while Saverio, a singer already on the rise, is fronting a touring band and has the good looks and smooth vocals that make success seem assured. It isn’t long before Saverio becomes Tony Arma and  he and Chi Chi form a duo; together they navigate the glamorous worlds of nightclubs, radio, and television. Soon they’re married and all goes well until it becomes clear that they must make a choice: Which of them will put ambition aside to build a family and which will pursue a career? What compromises will they make to achieve their dreams? And on the road to fame and fortune, how will they cope with the impact these compromises have on their marriage, family, and themselves?

From the Jersey shore to Hollywood, New York City to Las Vegas, the hills of northern Italy and the exuberant hayride of the big band circuit in between: Tony’s Wife tells the story of the twentieth century in song, as Tony & Chi Chi make studio recordings and promote them with appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. As they juggle the demands of their public lives, secrets are revealed, promises are broken, and loyalty is tested as the Armas attempt to keep the music playing and their family together.

Tony’s Wife is a richly layered novel that explores how a traditional Italian-American family grapples with the seismic shifts they face in a rapidly changing world. Replete with a pageant of vivid, complex characters, this deeply human saga of love and sacrifice showcases Adriana Trigiani’s gifts as a captivating storyteller and reveals her understanding that there are many different kinds of families: that over time love can evolve in ways that nobody can predict, especially when the hearts involved are open to forgiveness, the sweet reprise of redemption.


An Adriana Trigiani book is always cause for celebration at my house. It gets passed around long before publication date as no one wants to wait to read it. Reading Trigiani is an immersive experience into Italian family life and food and love.

Trigiani brings these characters and this time period to life, from the home decor to the cars and especially the attitudes. These characters learn and grow as times change, especially Chi Chi. In a way, this book reminded me a bit of the Broadway show Jersey Boys, so if you are not familiar with the author but you like the show (or movie), you will like this book.

Tony’s Wife is a deep dive into the 1940’s music scene and a marriage. This is a compelling and heartwarming read, sure to please Trigiani’s legion of fans.

11/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

TONY’S WIFE by Adriana Trigiani. Harper (November 20, 2018). ISBN 978-0062319258. 496p..

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MUTTS AND MISTLETOE by Natalie Cox

November 16, 2018

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From the publisher:

Thirty-one-year-old Charlie isn’t in the mood for Christmas cheer...

Her boyfriend has left her for his personal trainer, her mother has absconded with her latest husband for the holidays, and–adding insult to (literal) injury–her London apartment has just been destroyed by a gas leak. Single, mildly concussed and temporarily homeless, Charlie realizes there’s only one place to go: Cozy Canine Cottages, where she’ll spend the season looking after her cousin Jez’s doggy day care center. And if she’s not exactly a dog person, well, no one has to know…

But her plans for a quiet Christmas in a quaint country village are quickly dashed. Peggy the pregnant beagle and Malcolm the anxious Great Dane seem determined to keep her up all night. A strange man has been casing her cousin’s house. And where is Cal, the unbearably patronizing but disturbingly handsome local vet, when she needs him?

As the days tick down to Christmas, Charlie’s life has never felt so out of control–but with some help from her new four-legged friends, she just might learn a thing or two about living in the moment, embracing the unexpected and opening herself up to love…


If you could truly judge a book by its cover, this would be the cutest doggie Christmas story ever. It’s cute, but that cover lured me into wanting more.

The basis for the story was fun and should have worked. But I never really felt like I got to know what made Charlie tick, she was an anomaly to me, and if I can’t get involved with the main character, I can’t get involved with the story. I just found her flighty, at best. And worse yet, I wasn’t sure at all when the romance happened on Cal’s end.

The dogs were wonderful, but the story just didn’t work for me. That said, there were some very funny scenes that kept me hopeful and turning pages. I finished it although I was somewhat disappointed.

11/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

MUTTS AND MISTLETOE by Natalie Cox. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (October 9, 2018). ISBN 978-0525539193.  320p..

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