Humbug is both an opposites attract and an age gap romance, and I use the term “romance” loosely Ellie Pearce, statistician extraordinaire toiling away as a drone writing reports that have nothing to do with her degree at a very large, eponymous recruiting firm cofounded and run by Rosalind Caldwell, who is seen as an ice queen and who is somewhat feared by the employees who work for her. Rosalind knows Ellie only by her nickname “Christmas Girl”, so dubbed because Ellie is one of those people who keeps christmas year round, her desk a riot of decorations and her music that of the season. But just so we know it isn’t tacky, we’re told Ellie listens to choral music and that she is involved in a christmas chorus each year.
One day, Rosalind comes marching down to the second floor to tell Ellie to pack up her stuff and haul herself up to one of the higher floors. This terrifies Ellie, as she’s deathly afraid of heights. But Ellie does as she’s told, and her new job is to be Rosalind’s assistant and take over the planning for the company christmas party, a Very Big Deal each year. Ellie digs in, only to find the previous assistant has sabotaged everything: canceling all vendors, caterers, and the space they had reserved.
Those looking for instalove will be disappointed. Those looking for some kind of meaningful romance to develop through the book will likewise be disappointed. If it weren’t for Rosalind’s 12-year old daughter, the two of them would rarely speak, and only about business – and mainly about the christmas party. It’s only in the last third of the book that anything really crops up, and as with a couple of Radley’s books I’ve read, the ending feels a littler artificial and a lot rushed. As with those books, I’d have been willing to read a longer book with those threads teased out a little.
I’ll give the book points for no instacure for Ellie’s fear of heights, and points for Rosalind and Ellie’s bestie to give her the experience of the party on the roof without actually taking her to the roof.
Three out of five stars.
Publication date: December 14, 2021
Thanks to Bold Strokes Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.