Book Review | The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy

Weird that this is the second romcom I’ve read this year that is set at a funeral home. Why is this a (small) trend now?

In The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen, Mercy is feeling overworked and stressed being in charge of her family’s funeral home. To make matters worse, her least favorite marshal, Hart, keeps coming around to bring more bodies. Meanwhile, Hart is equally annoyed by Mercy, but secretly plagued with loneliness in his solitary life and difficult job. So he writes a letter to “A Friend,” not expecting to get an answer. But a letter comes back, and he strikes up a friendship with this anonymous person. This anonymous person, however, turns out to be Mercy, who also has no idea that her penpal is the person who frustrates her most. And as their relationship evolves on paper, danger increases in their land, and they might have to come together to cope—assuming they can survive each other first.

So when I read the premise, I thought that this sounded like Under the Whispering Door meets You’ve Got Mail. And you know what? I nailed it.

There are several scenes that are straight out of the latter, as clearly Bannen is a fan. I grew up watching that movie, so it was fun to see the little references and homages here. And adding the more fantastical elements to it was really cool! I like the magical world in which Mercy and Hart live, and I found the lore to be engaging and detailed without being overwhelming or confusing.

Romcom movies aside, I also liked the main characters. Both have a lot of depth, and though they are flawed and don’t always make the best choices, they are relatable and sympathetic. Mercy’s cares deeply for people and has lots of ambition in her work, while Hart yearns for family and feels uncertain that he can be loved. All this made them interesting characters. I didn’t really buy their early antagonism toward each other, though. It seemed a little extreme; surely people aren’t usually so rude to each other when they’re sort of colleagues? But I know this is the common enemies-to-lovers setup, and it luckily passed after not too long. The way their relationship developed felt natural, and it was overall really lovely. They make a sweet couple.

I also liked the other characters. Duckers, Hart’s young apprentice, was probably my favorite, but I also liked Mercy’s siblings and Hart’s boss. They all have distinct personalities and voices, and their own journeys are interesting. Together they help to make this magical land feel alive.

There’s also some decent action. This is a fantasy setting filled with zombie-like creatures, which sets this story apart from others in the genre. And the fight scenes, though not a huge focus of the story, are pretty exciting. The stakes are pretty high, and I really liked the moments that explored this part of the plot.

Another thing I wanted to mention is that I listened to the audiobook for this, and both narrators—Michael Gallagher and Rachanee Lumayno—were fantastic! They both infuse a lot of emotion and personality into their performances. I moved the speed up slightly, though, and that was perfect for me.

In the end, The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy was excellent, better than I thought it would be! I was expecting a passable romcom with a slight fantasy twist, but I got an absorbing love story with great pacing, wonderful characters, and moving growth for both characters. The fantasy is rich, interesting, vivid, and a little dangerous sometimes, with some really memorable moments of action. If you like sweet romances and some light magical elements, try this!

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy will be published on August 23rd, 2022!

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