Etta

Review: The Christmas Swap

Expected publication: October 16th 2020, 400 pages

Author: Sandy Barker

Overview from Goodreads:

Chloe, Jules, and Lucy meet at a Maui resort kids’ club, aged 11, forging a lifelong friendship spanning two decades and three continents.

Twenty-two years later, they decide to swap Christmases, none of them expecting the hilarity and romantic escapades that will ensue.

Chloe from Melbourne spends her Christmas with Lucy’s mum and dad in a sleepy village in Oxfordshire, England, stunned to the core when she discovers who grew up across the road from Lucy.

Lucy, who has jetted off to snowy Colorado for her dream-come-true white Christmas, is taken into the fold of Jules’s loud and brash family, discovering more about herself in a few short days than she has in years.

And Jules leaves the cold climes of Colorado to spend a balmy ‘Orphan’s Christmas’ with Chloe’s friends in Melbourne, finding that time away from her mundane life is just what she needed.

Join these three lovable women as they each get a Christmas to surpass their wildest dreams.

Personal Review

This novel is like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants meets the Holiday. Three women meet when they are eleven years old while on holiday in Hawaii and form the May Ladies Club. They then separate to their respective homes, but remain friends who talk all the time and meet-up to travel around the world together. This novel takes place in each of their parts of the globe in separate stories that are also brought together by their communication and friendship.

Our story takes place twenty-two years later when the girls have all grown up and are now working different careers and living their own lives while still maintaining their friendship they formed all those years ago. Jules is a programmer who is in a rut from Boulder, Colorado. Lucy is from London, England has been in her position for eleven years and is having trouble with her new manager, and Chloe is a PR representative from Melbourne, Australia. As Christmas is approaching, they start discussing their respective plans. Lucy dreams of a white Christmas, Chloe wants a small town Christmas, and Jules wants a warmer Christmas. As Chloe’s family is going on a cruise for Christmas, they get inspired by The Holiday and decide to swap locations for Christmas.

Lucy travels to Breckenridge, Colorado to spend Christmas with Jules’ family at their cabin; Chloe goes to Penham (Oxfordshire), England to Lucy’s parents’ house; and Jules goes to Melbourne, Australia to stay at Chloe’s house with her roommate Ash and their friend-Christmas.

As no romance novel would be complete with love interests, we meet our three men in each of the women’s holiday destinations. When Jules arrives at Ash and Chloe’s apartment in Melbourne, she meets Matt, a winemaker. Lucy is picked up from the airport in Colorado by Jules’ brother, Will and they bond on their drive to the cabin. Finally, Chloe meets Archer Tate (an international film star) while helping out with the Christmas Fair.

I loved that each of the three couples were individual. Each couple handled their relationship different and they complemented the characters. Lucy is more reserved and it was reflected in her relationship. There is enough background for each character, even the side characters, such as the friends or family members that you get to learn a lot about what’s going on at each place while still maintaining focus on the main stories.

My only issue was the use of phrases/word choices that were supposed to be regional, but didn’t add up to me. “All that and a bag of chips” and “gobbledygook” were the ones that I can remember off the top of my head. They were written as being something foreign to Jules, the American, but as an American I can attest that these are extremely common to me so it was hard to get behind that Jules has never heard them at least once in her life.  It wasn’t a huge deal for me, but there were a lot that each of them said that just didn’t seem to add up as being an American, Australian, or British type speaking pattern. Sometimes Chloe would say something that I’ve never heard any of my Australian friends say, but I’ve only heard my American friends. (This happened with everyone) It could just be my experience that just didn’t match the author’s, but it seemed the author kept their cultural mannerisms one way and then they would change to another. It didn’t take away from the novel, but it just was a double-take type moment when I read a line and was like, “Wait – that’s not something any British person I know would say.”

Each destination is described well enough that you feel like you’re traveling to each place as you move between the characters. It made me want to go travel to each of these places and spend Christmas (I’ve checked small town England off the list– sadly no movie stars to meet, but now I have Colorado and Australia to go.)  I love that these locations aren’t ones that you read about in novels, especially Colorado in general or Australia for a Christmas novel.  

The friendship between the characters is what stands out in this novel. No matter what was going in each of their lives, they always made time for each other. I love that even if they are exhausted, they will still stay up and talk to each other and they each take turns talking about their lives so it’s not too one-sided. One thing I kept trying to figure out though (and I know it’s fictional so it’s not super realistic), was how on Earth did they get the money to travel that often!? A New York vacation especially would’ve been super expensive (especially flying in from Australia). None of their positions are millionaire type jobs so it was hard to believe that they could afford their decent home lives plus afford the multiple trips around the world together (plus excursions – horseback riding in Mexico, etc.)

Overall, this novel was amazing and light-hearted. It was three Hallmark holiday movies combined to make a single story. I loved how the author attempted to weave their individual stories together to connect the women through their phone calls or just generally when they were thinking of each other. It really helped to try and make three separate stories into one cohesive novel. The writing style was easy to understand and I would read multiple novels by this author without a second thought. Without question, this was a heart-warming novel that just gives you all the holiday feels (even if it’s September). Highly recommend this novel to anyone who wants a story that just makes you walk away with a smile on your face and love in your heart!

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