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ALC Review: The Undermining of Twyla and Frank by Megan Bannen

Release date:  2 July 2024

Rating:  3.5/5

Narration:  Nicol Zanzarella

Narration Rating:  4/5

Synopsis:  From the author of The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy comes a heartwarming fantasy with a best friends-to-lovers rom com twist--When Harry Met Sally, but with dragons!—set in the delightful demigod and donut-filled world of Tanria.

The entire town of Eternity was shocked when widowed, middle-aged Twyla Banneker partnered up with her neighbor and best friend, Frank Ellis, to join the Tanrian Marshals. Eight years later, Twyla and Frank are still patrolling the dangerous land of Tanria, the former prison of the Old Gods.

Twyla might look like a small town mom who brings cheesy potatoes to funerals and whips up a batch of cookies for the school bake sale, but her rewarding career in law enforcement has been a welcome change from the domestic grind of mom life, despite the misgivings of her grown children.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) a recent decrease in on-the-job peril has made Twyla and Frank's job a lot safer ... and a lot less exciting. So when they discover the body of one of their fellow marshals covered in liquid glitter--and Frank finds himself the inadvertent foster dad to a baby dragon--they are more than happy to be back on the beat.

Soon, the friends wind up ensnared in a nefarious plot that goes far deeper than any lucrative Tanrian mineshaft. But as the danger closes in and Twyla and Frank's investigation becomes more complicated, so does their easy friendship. And Twyla starts to realize that her true soul mate might just be the person who has lived next door all along...



Bannen’s Undertaking of Hart and Mercy series continues with The Undermining of Twyla and Frank, and I don’t necessarily hate it, but I don't really love it, either.  The series feels like it’s supposed to be cozy fantasy, but it doesn’t really read that way.  It’s certainly quirky and feels a bit more original than much of the fantasy romance churning into the market lately, so readers who look for unique angles for the genre and don’t mind excessive language and some explicit sexual content may like Bannen’s series.

I especially love the grown-up aspect of Bannen’s romances, and I don’t mean the content or language.  The main characters in both books in The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy are well over the normal 17-20-year-old innocent and inexperienced love interests most common in mainstream fantasy romances.  In fact, Twyla and Frank are well over that threshold and in their 50’s.  I find it quite refreshing.  

Twyla and Frank endear themselves to me because they’re fantastic partners in adventure with great rapport.  The banter between the two warms the heart and fuels the laughter machine.  I also love it because it reminds me of Vic and Walt from Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series (if you haven’t read those books or seen that show, and you like the vibes in this book, pick those up), except Frank and Twyla feel a bit like both Walt and Vic.  

I’m not quite into the world building for the series, and I think that’s where I find most of my meh feelings come from.  For the age level and maturity of the characters, the storyline possesses some discontinuity.  While Frank and Twyla have a great connection and provide nice comedy and dialogue, the world around them feels like it’s stunted at the preschool level akin to the toy hierarchy in Toy Story 3.  The magical creatures are infantile and obsessed with soft drinks, and the dragons spit glitter—which feels like it belongs in a Magic Tree House book or Dragon Tales show.  I’m very much in the minority for this opinion, I know, as the overall pre-release ratings so far are well over 4.

The narration for this one matches well with the magical creatures—Zanzarella is great with sound effects.  I found it a bit difficult to differentiate between the male voices, though, as they all sounded a bit the same to me.  And being from the South (south of I-10 south), I found all the “country” accents sounded the same and not really country.  

Overall, 3.5 for the story and 4 for the narration out of 5 for this one.  It’s an improvement for me from the first book, but I didn’t like it too much more.  I feel it’s really popular, though, and I’m in the minority.  I’ll certainly read the rest of the books in the series just to see where it’s going.

My thanks to and Orbit for the ALC, for which I willingly give my own, honest opinion.

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