The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen
Publication Date: August 23, 2022
Summary from GoodReads:
Hart is a marshal, tasked with patrolling the strange and magical wilds of Tanria. It’s an unforgiving job, and Hart’s got nothing but time to ponder his loneliness.
Mercy never has a moment to herself. She’s been single-handedly keeping Birdsall & Son Undertakers afloat in defiance of sullen jerks like Hart, who seems to have a gift for showing up right when her patience is thinnest.
After yet another exasperating run-in with Mercy, Hart finds himself penning a letter addressed simply to “A Friend”. Much to his surprise, an anonymous letter comes back in return, and a tentative friendship is born.
If only Hart knew he’s been baring his soul to the person who infuriates him most – Mercy. As the dangers from Tanria grow closer, so do the unlikely correspondents. But can their blossoming romance survive the fated discovery that their pen pals are their worst nightmares – each other?
I saw another review that called this a cozy fantasy, and I think that is a wonderful way to describe this story. It is a romance, wrapped up in a fantasy world that is never fully explained but you figure it out as you go along and that is one of the reasons that I loved this book.
The world building is rather subtle, there is no info dump, and things aren’t always explained, but you get enough of an understanding to really appreciate this world, that is a little bit like ours, but then it’s not. There are old gods and new gods and demigods and your soul resides in your appendix. That’s right folks the appendix really does have a purpose! And to kill the drudges, aka zombies, you have to stab the appendix to release the soul. How perfect is that? I also loved that the mail is delivered by talking animals who are snarky and demand tips for their troubles. Finally everyone drives around in autoducks, similar to our amphibious vehicles. There is a lot more to this world, but these were some of my favorite parts.
The characters are what really sell this book though. You will love every single one of them. I enjoyed spending time with Mercy and her family who thinks they know better than her on how she should live her life. Lots of family drama to enjoy. But you can see and hear the love from each and everyone of them. I felt for Mercy’s loneliness too. She also loves a good romance and bubble baths! Hart was such a softie under that rough and tough exterior and most of the time I just wanted to wrap him up in a warm blanket and give him a big hug and reassure him that everything would be ok. I also really loved his humor and his loyalty. Plus any man who can defend tea over coffee has my heart forever.
“I choose to ignore your accusation that I am a monster, because it is clear to me that you have never known the perfection that is a cup of good black tea. Incidentally coffee tasted like the sum total of humanity’s bitterness brewed into a brackish swill to be slurped with a grimace.”
The enemies to lovers story line was wonderfully well done. There are of course lots of other themes and storylines going on, such as Mercy’s family business needing help, the upsurge in drudges, and Hart’s long suffering grief and loneliness are all dealt with masterfully. There is rarely a dull moment in this book and you find yourself rooting for just about everyone. There are a couple of bad guys, but even one of them you end up kind of liking?
I’m not sure my review has done this book justice. It is quite unlike any other fantasy or romance or even mystery that I have ever read. It is slightly quirky and a lot of fun to read. It will certainly leave you smiling.