Book Review: The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy
Publisher: Orbit
Pub Date: 23 August 2022
Genre: Fantasy Romance (Romantasy)

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)


Hart Ralston is a demigod and a marshal, tasked with patrolling the wasteland of Tanria. The realm the exiled old gods once called home is now a forsaken place where humans with no better options or no better sense come seeking adventure or spoils, but more often end up as drudges: reanimated corpses inhabited by the souls of those who’ve died in Tanria before. Hart tells himself that his job is simple: neutralize the drudges with a quick zap to the appendix and deliver them back to polite society at the nearest undertaker’s, leaving the whys and hows of the drudge problem for men without the complexities of a god in their family tree. But working alone, Hart’s got nothing but time to ponder exactly those questions he’d most like to avoid.

Too much time alone is the opposite of Mercy Birdsall’s problem. Since her father’s decline, she’s been single-handedly keeping Birdsall & Son undertakers afloat in small-town Eternity—despite definitely not being a son, and in defiance of sullen jerks like Hart Ralston, who seems to have a gift for showing up right when her patience is thinnest. The work’s not the problem—Mercy’s good at it, better than any other Birdsall—but keeping all her family’s plates spinning singlehandedly, forever, isn’t how Mercy envisioned her future.

After yet another run-in with the sharp-tongued Mercy, Hart considers she might have a point about his utter loneliness being a bit of a liability. In a moment of sentimentality, he pens a letter addressed simply to “A Friend,” and entrusts it to a nimkilim, an anthropomorphic animal messenger with an uncanny connection to the gods, (and in Hart’s case, a bit of a drinking problem). 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 two unlikely pen pals grow closer, the truth about Hart’s parentage and the nature of the drudges creeps in. And suddenly their old animosity seems so small in comparison to what they might be able to do: end the drudges forever. But at what cost?


Parental abandonment, physical injuries including gunshot wounds, emesis, heart attack recounted, dead bodies, grief & loss depiction, death of a father recounted, death of a mother from cancer recounted, death of a grandparent from a stroke, attempted murder, animal death recounted (dog)

TL;DR: The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is an entertaining, hilariously quirky and slightly morbid fantasy romance mixed with so many well-executed rom-com elements. This curious world sucked me in and the characters had me falling head-over-feet for them and I had such a hard time putting this down when it came time to fall asleep! I would definitely recommend it to those who love the hate-to-love/enemies-to-lovers trope, delicious emotional angst, all the grumpy/sunshine vibes in both romance and friendship, strong family banter and MCs who are so very easy to love.

Countless people told me that I was sure to love this romantasy and they weren’t wrong. I’m upset that it took me so long to read it but I’m glad that I finally picked it up on a whim yesterday because omgoodness, I adored it so very much! 😍 I don’t often re-read books but the minute I finished this I immediately missed these characters and wanted to dive back in again. Thank you in advance for reading this essay I wrote! 😂

Bannen swept me away to this weirdly quaint and macabre world where zombie-like creatures existed alongside portals to lands that served as a magical prison for Gods. The setting was a mix of old-fashioned historical western and magical modern quirkiness that sounds like such an odd combination but really worked so well for this story—it’s unlike any fantasy romance setting I’ve read before which made it so much more fun to read. Although the world-building was pretty light, I liked that it wasn’t so complex that I’d get lost in the intricacies but it was still enough for me to get a clear picture of what was happening, where and why. This had a mystery element too and though it was kind of predictable and only played a minor-ish role in pushing forward the romance and character development, it was still fun to figure it out.

As intriguing as the world-building is, the characters are 100% what won me over and I knew I would love all of them—main and side characters alike, the moment we are introduced to them! 💜

Mercy was absolutely wonderful! She has such a big heart and has so much love and kindness to share with everyone. She’s the oldest child and has worked tirelessly to support her family, from helping raise her siblings when their mum passed to now handling the family business since her dad got sick. Although everyone assumes she’s being held back from “living her life” due to these obligations, she actually loves being an undertaker and it was such a pleasure to read about her passion for providing people with the best care she can give them even if they’re no longer alive to see it. She’s selfless, which often meant she puts her wants and needs last, but her responsibilities also made her feel a little lonely and friendless. She is an easy character to admire and I loved her sunshine positivity!

“Oh. It’s you,” she said, the words and the unenthusiastic tone that went with them dropping off her tongue like a lead weight. Hart resisted the urge to grind his molars into a fine powder. “Most people start with hello.”
“Hello, Hart-ache,” she sighed.
“Hello, Merciless.”

In total grumpy contrast to her is Hart. He is a super-sad and super-lonely demigod and honestly, that romance hero archetype is absolutely my kryptonite so it’s safe to say that I LOVED him. He’s lost so many loved ones in his life and is understandably jaded because of it, but it’ll surprise no one to know that under his gruffness, Hart is an ooey-gooey softy who’s scared to live his life (in case he lives forever and has to lose everyone he loves all over again—y’know, immortality and all that jazz), and yet he craves the comfort of companionship though he doesn’t know how to show it. As much as I loved Mercy and her personal growth, I was most invested in Hart’s because he’s so harsh on himself but he deserves so much happiness and it was so satisfying to see him open up thanks to Mercy and Duckers entering his life. I honestly didn’t expect to get so emotionally invested but by the end of this book, I was full-on weeping (yes, I am a crier in general but it’s been a while, okay)!

And aah, don’t even get me started on their romance! It was everything! Totally *chefs kiss!* and I feel head-over-feet for these love birds! 💜 If you are a fan of the hate-to-love trope, with plenty of “I loathe this person and yet I can’t keep my eyes off them or stop thinking about them” vibes, then you’re for sure going to love the dynamic between Hart and Mercy. They both come in hot with slinging insults at each other and their snippy hate-filled banter is just as good as their friendship-turned-lovers banter! The emotional, physical and sexual tension was palpable each time they met and it created such delightfully angsty moments that had me questioning if they were going to take swipes at each other or launch themselves at each other for what we know will be a devastating kiss. Plus, knowing that they’re unwittingly writing to one another and cracking their chests wide open in those letters only served to ratchet up the tension and I loved every second of it! 😍 If you enjoy epistolary stories or mixed media formats, then you’ll enjoy the inclusion of their letters in this. The vulnerability, the cheeky banter, and the comforting connection they formed all came through so well in these letters and let me tell you, that last one had me seriously ugly crying, negl! 😂

“Bassareus regarded Hart, studied the bottle in his hand, then turned his attention back to Hart. “She must be a hot piece of ass.”
“You look like a rabbit, but you’re actually a pig, aren’t you?” Hart said, making it clear that this was a statement, not a question.”

Aside from our two wonderful MCs, the side characters all won me over too. Mercy’s family is delightfully weird and wonderful and it was such a blast to read all their interactions. They’re small but loud, rambunctious, and so full of life! I also adored Pen Duckers—Hart’s apprentice and the one who starts injecting more joy and life into Hart’s world. Their connection was all sorts of heartwarming and together they not only made a great team but also a little family unit that made my heart so happy. I can’t forget to mention the nimkilim Horatio and Bassareus, the latter who was shockingly and vulgar but it was so comical and somehow fitting for this giant magical rabbit’s personality. 😂 Honestly, so many of the characters and their dynamics in this book were hilarious and had me cracking up! This book was a lot funnier than I thought it’d be which just made reading Bannen’s writing all the more enjoyable to read.

I can really go on about this book but long story short is that I absolutely loved it, couldn’t put it down, want to go back to these characters immediately, and would highly recommend it to all of those who love romance and aren’t afraid to get it with a lite dose of fantasy. This is definitely one of my favourites this year (yes, I really loved it that much). Please read it! 💜

Have you read The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy or is it on your TBR?

BBNYA Blog Tour Review: Beneath Cruel Fathoms by Anela Deen

Hello, hello friends! I’m so excited to be back for another blog tour hosted by @The Write Reads for BBNYA 2021 finalist Beneath Cruel Fathoms by Anela Deen. Don’t forget to check out all the other bloggers participating in this tour: here or click on the banner below! 😍

*For those who want to know more about BBNYA more information about the competition can be found at the end of my post!*

Special thanks to the author for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: Beneath Cruel Fathoms
Publisher: Fine Fable Press
Publish Date: 17 May 2019
Genre: Adult Fantasy, Romance Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

After a violent storm destroys her ship, Isaura Johansdottir knows better than to hope she’ll be rescued from Eisland’s vast Failock Sea. Adrift and alone, her plans to start over lost, it’s a tragic conclusion after the disastrous end of her marriage—until she’s saved by Leonel, one of the merfolk, a creature long believed extinct. In repayment for her life, Leonel enlists her help to investigate the Failock’s mysterious and deadly plague of squalls. But when Isaura discovers Eisland’s ruthless new Lord commands the storms, her life will be in more danger on land than it ever was at sea.

As guardian of the Fathoms, Leonel must find the cause of unnatural storms ravaging the tidal currents and destroying the sea life. There are rumors of dark magic stirring in the Orom Abyss, the resting place of old, vanquished gods who tried to submerge the land millennia ago. Yet without proof, no one in King Ægir’s court will listen to him. And if it’s discovered he broke the Blue Laws to save a shipwrecked landweller, he might not survive the consequences.

As storms spread, Leonel and Isaura uncover secrets as forbidden as the bond that grows between them. Betrayal lurks in the restless sea, and when ancient powers lay siege to Eisland’s coast, the truth may be drowned along with everything else

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ARC Review: Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

Special thanks to Travis Baldree for sending an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: Legends & Lattes
Published: 22 February 2022
Genre: Cosy Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

High Fantasy with a double-shot of self-reinvention

Worn out after decades of packing steel and raising hell, Viv the orc barbarian cashes out of the warrior’s life with one final score. A forgotten legend, a fabled artifact, and an unreasonable amount of hope lead her to the streets of Thune, where she plans to open the first coffee shop the city has ever seen.

However, her dreams of a fresh start pulling shots instead of swinging swords are hardly a sure bet. Old frenemies and Thune’s shady underbelly may just upset her plans. To finally build something that will last, Viv will need some new partners and a different kind of resolve.

A hot cup of fantasy slice-of-life with a dollop of romantic froth.

TL;DR: If you’re looking for a feel-good fantasy that’s full of cosy emotion and a heartwarming message, and immersive writing that will make you feel like you’re right there at this cafe with its wonderful found family of characters, then I would immediately recommend getting your hands on a copy of this book! Trust me when I say you won’t regret it. Also, snacks. Bring snacks!

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Book Review: The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen

Goodreads: The Bridge Kingdom (The Bridge Kingdom #1)
Published: 09 June 2020
Genre: Fantasy Romance (Romantasy)

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

A warrior princess trained in isolation, Lara is driven by two certainties. The first is that King Aren of the Bridge Kingdom is her enemy. And the second is that she’ll be the one to bring him to his knees.

The only route through a storm-ravaged world, the Bridge Kingdom enriches itself and deprives its rivals, including Lara’s homeland. So when she’s sent as a bride under the guise of peace, Lara is prepared to do whatever it takes to fracture its impenetrable defenses. And the defenses of its king.

Yet as she infiltrates her new home and gains a deeper understanding of the war to possess the bridge, Lara begins to question whether she’s the hero or the villain. And as her feelings for Aren transform from frosty hostility to fierce passion, Lara must choose which kingdom she’ll save… and which kingdom she’ll destroy.

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Book Review: Seducing the Sorcerer by Lee Welch

Goodreads: Seducing the Sorcerer
Publisher: Self-published
Published: 23 September 2021
Genre: Fantasy Romance

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

Homeless and jobless, Fenn Todd has nearly run out of hope. All he has left is his longing for horses and the strength of his own two hands. But when he’s cheated into accepting a very ugly sackcloth horse, he’s catapulted into a world of magic, politics and desire.

Fenn’s invited to stay at the black tower, home of the most terrifying man in the realm: Morgrim, the court sorcerer. Morgrim has a reputation as a scheming villain, but he seems surprisingly charming—and sexy—and Fenn falls hard for him.

However, nothing is as it seems and everyone at the tower is lying about something. Beset by evil hexes, violent political intrigue and a horse that eats eiderdowns, Fenn must make the hardest choices of his life.
Can a plain man like Fenn ever find true love with a scheming sorcerer?

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Cover Reveal: Royal Spy by Heather Frost

I was delighted when Heather Frost reached out to ask me to take part in the cover reveal for book two in her Fate of Eyrinthia series: Royal Spy!

If you pre-order a copy there’s also an exciting gift (an EXCLUSIVE scene from one of the characters POVs: The Decoy and The Bodyguard) that you can receive once you show proof of purchase. The form to enter for the pre-order gift is linked down below so don’t forget to check it out!

Goodreads: Royal Spy (Fate of Eyrinthia #2)
Publish Date: 20 May 2021
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Romance

A DECOY recruited to be a spy.
A PRINCE compelled to become an assassin.
A SERJAH pressured by an unwanted crown.
A WORLD covered in shadows.

Mere months ago, Clare was just a kitchen maid. Now, she is a decoy for Princess Serene and a novice spy, caught in the royal family’s web of secrets. While journeying to Mortise to finalize the princess’s betrothal to Serjah Desfan, Clare lives for the stolen moments she has with Bennick, the bodyguard who is quickly claiming her heart. But when a notorious assassin is hired to kill her, Clare’s life and the alliance hang in the balance.

In Ryden, Grayson prepares to leave for Mortise with his brother, Liam. Their orders are to ignite a war between their enemies, and Grayson has been tasked with assassinating Princess Serene. It may cost his soul, but he is ready to comply, as long as he gets something in return: freedom for Mia, the girl he loves. But the more time he spends with his brother, the more he begins to wonder if Liam is what Grayson wishes he had the courage to be . . . a traitor. 

Desfan feels trapped. By his disapproving council, his impending marriage to a stranger, and the imminent arrival of enemy princes who may not want the peace they profess. When a dangerous drug threatens his people, Desfan jumps at the chance to rely on his swords instead of politics. But his investigation uncovers more than he bargained for—a plot that may destroy Mortise from within.

Eyrinthia hovers on the edge of war. Spies. Rebels. Traitors. All must choose a side.



Read the first book Royal Decoy (Fate of Eyrinthia #1) today! Available on Kindle Unlimited. You can also check out my review for book one.

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Mini-Review: Beneath Black Sails Romantasy Series

The Beneath Black Sails series is currently unfinished and this is a review of the first two books. There’s a prequel novella that I haven’t read and probably won’t? According to Goodreads, the third and fourth books will be published sometime in 2021!

Beneath Black Sails (Beneath Black Sails #1)
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Panda Rating:

Sometimes it takes a pirate to catch a pirate.
With weather magic on her side, Lady Vice is the bane of the high seas, but she isn’t captain of her own ship. Yet. If she can persuade her captain to give her a command, she’ll be in charge of her own fate.

To pay off his family’s debts, Knigh Blackwood hunts pirates for the Royal Navy. And he’s damn good at it. When the bounty on Lady Vice increases, he’s determined to make her face justice, even if that means using unorthodox methods.

Forced to work together, neither can deny their mutual attraction. As they face battles at sea and schemes aboard their ship, they discover hints about a long-lost treasure that could be the answer to both their problems.

But treasure isn’t the only thing buried. Secrets best forgotten lie in wait that could blast them apart. And the closer Vice and Knigh grow, the greater the threat – to her freedom and to his family. Because for one to succeed, the other must fail.

This was a fast-paced and action-packed high-seas adventure with interesting characters and a good dose of a slow-burning fiery enemies-to-lovers romance. This was probably the most pirate-y romantasy that I have ever read and you know what? I was totally here for it. Major props to Sager because you can tell she has done her research and actually, the way she talks about ships and sailing breathes it to life! Vice and Knigh were polar opposites that oddly complemented each other, and had an interesting enemies-to-lovers romance that progressed naturally, but their sexual chemistry was obvious from day one. Vice took some getting used to and Knigh was also an imperfect hero, but they both experience a lot of growth and I was invested in their arcs. If you’re into nautical fantasy or romantasy then this is definitely one you should check out because it packs an entertaining punch with lots of fun twists and tons of pirate shenanigans!

My biggest frustration with the book was the lack of world-building. Sager sets the scene in a way that expects us to already know about the world and thus scant detail about the setting is provided. The author provides a detailed note at the end of the book where she divulges more information, but I felt like I learned more about the world in her note than I did in the whole book. Overall, a highly entertaining start to the series and after that tumultuous ending, I can’t wait to dive into book two!

Against Dark Tides (Beneath Black Sails #2)
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Panda Rating:

Enemies. Lovers. Enemies once more. Now they must work together to survive. 

Notorious pirate Lady Vice has lost everything: ship, crew, and friends. Even her body has betrayed her, leaving her magic weak. To make matters worse, she’s stuck at sea with the man who stabbed her in the back.

Knigh Blackwood is no longer a captain, no longer a pirate-hunter, no longer … anything. All he has left is the woman he betrayed, and she’d rather cut out his tongue with his own dagger than forgive him.

There’s just one thing that might make up for what they’ve lost: Drake’s treasure.
But they’re not the only ones searching for clues and the elusive X that marks the spot. Between them and the treasure stand a scheming duke, a former lover, and a sea monster thought the stuff of legends – not to mention Vice and Knigh’s complicated feelings for each other.

Can you hear that? It’s the resounding sound of disappointment!!! *womp womp womp…*

So… WOW, Vice made it really really really hard for me to love this book. Like, really hard. She took some getting used to in book one and redeemed herself by the end, but I was up to my eyeballs and drowning in frustration with her naïveté and childish petulance in this book and it really took the enjoyment out of the story for me! With the way book one ends, it’s no surprise that there would be a good dose of angst in book two, I just didn’t expect so much of it, and it took away from the fun of the story. While Vice was just plain bad, I found Knigh frustrating at times too. Their character arcs were just so woefully repetitive and although they do come to realise what they could’ve done better/differently, they really don’t grow.

The only character who saved the book for me was Perry. She’s not only a great trustworthy captain but an amazing friend. We get to see a strong friendship grow between Perry and Knigh and her influence on him was not only soothing, but I thought she also really brought out the best in him. We get a stronger villain in this book and he was truly despicable but I’m very curious about Mercia and how he’s linked to Knigh’s past and what role he’ll play in the future.

Overall, while we get more high-seas adventures and there’s even a treasure hunt and the introduction of The Kraken(!!), I’m sad to say that this was a pretty disappointing sequel. I really wanted less Vice and more Perry, as well as the blossoming friendship between Perry and Knigh. That said, I feel like I want to know what happens next because the end of book two did seem promising. I hope that I’m not disappointed again!

And that’s a wrap, folks! Do you find sequels are more often disappointing than not? Have you read any of the Beneath Black Sails series or is it on your TBR?

ARC Review + Favourite Quotes: Royal Decoy by Heather Frost

Special thanks to the author for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Royal Decoy (Fate of Eyrinthia #1)
Release date: 18 June 2020
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Romance, Romantasy

Panda Rating:

A SERVANT blackmailed into becoming a princess’s decoy.
A BODYGUARD determined to keep her alive.
A PRINCE forced to execute his father’s brutal laws.
A PRISONER used to keep him compliant.
A WORLD on the brink of war.

In one horrible night, Clare goes from kitchen maid to royal decoy. She has three months to become the princess’s perfect double so she can ensure her betrothal to an enemy prince. Desperate to survive, Clare throws herself into self-defense training, taught by her distractingly attractive bodyguard. The danger increases when a ruthless assassin begins stalking her, intent on ending the tenuous peace.

Across the northern mountains, Prince Grayson is his father’s ultimate weapon. He carries out the king’s harsh orders because the one person he cares about is his father’s prisoner. Grayson’s silent obedience is tested when his father plans to exploit the marriage alliance between two of their greatest enemies. If Grayson submits, the blood of thousands will spill. If he resists, the girl who means everything to him will die.

The fate of Eyrinthia hangs in the balance. Some want peace. Some want war. All will be thrown into chaos.

Amazon (US)

Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.

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