My name is Genevieve Clare, professional mourner, destined to spend my days donning a black suit and throwing myself on top of caskets for money. Sometimes I mixed it up and threw myself on top of a willing warm body instead. Finding the right warm body though, that was a different story.
The Morbid and Sultry Tales of Genevieve Clare is a book I was wholly unprepared for. I was completely interested in this book from the beginning – how can you ignore such an awesome title? – based on the synopsis and assumed I would like this read. The fact of the matter is, I loved this read and hope the following will be enough to convey how truly excellent this read is.
Tales opens with a twenty-something Genevieve Clare burying her mother, father and, grandmother on the same day. To make matters worse, Gen is now left with no family, a huge home, an historic cemetery that happens to now contain her family’s graves and, no idea what to do. In the midst of her grief, Gen’s friend and serious long-time crush, Ahren walks back into her life and has no plans to leave. For years Genevieve has loved Ahren and for him to come to her at her lowest moment seems a bit like destiny has come calling. In a brief moment of clarity, Gen accepts Ahren into her life and decides she will become a professional mourner. In the coming weeks, Ahren and Gen work their way toward some semblance of happiness and just when they think they are there, their world is flipped ass over tea kettle and their burgeoning happiness is stripped away. In a moment of pure, unadulterated panic Gen kicks Ahren out of her life completely.
Over the course of the next ten years, Gen builds an excellent reputation as a professional mourner. Her clients’ wishes are all that matter and she does her very best to satisfy each and every client she takes on. For some, the service is as simple as being there for the next of kin, for others it is making sure they really are dead before cremation (the Shake and Bake!) and, in the more elaborate requests, there is humiliation, dancing on graves and the odd throwing of herself on the coffin. Most clients are just that, clients but from time to time, Genevieve allows herself to become particularly close to a client and when this happens, Gen experiences true friendship and caring unlike anything she has ever known. Interestingly, the two most significant clients in her life both know Ahren and often take the time to remind her of what a good man he is and how hard love is to find.
In the ten years he has been away from Gen, Ahren has, at best, survived. Though Gen is still very much alive she has been lost to Ahren in a way that mimics death. And then one day, Ahren decides he has had enough and begins to lay the groundwork for reclaiming the woman he has always, always loved. The reunion of Gen and Ahren is something the entire town and most of Gen’s still-living clients have been waiting for. Ahren is very clear with his intentions and though he knows Gen is scared, he also knows that she loves him as much as he loves her. Their way back to one another is filled with so many moments of unbridled passion, stark fear, intense sadness and, pure joy. Genevieve has an established life and a good career and though she has known Ahren for most of her life, she has to find a way to fit him in to what she has created for herself. The moments between them are not always good but each and every moment – good and bad – are grounded in good intentions and a deep seated love for one another.
The Bottom Line: I was pretty much blown away by this book and read it cover to cover in one day. Hartnett has created a read that is most certainly laced with sadness but that sadness is tempered by moments of excellent humor and joy. Genevieve is a totally unique character and I was drawn to her from the very beginning. Gen has been through Hell yet she has found a way to not only survive but to build a life for herself. More importantly, Gen has found a way to help others in their darkest moments and give to others what she felt she missed in the time surrounding the loss of her own family. Gen builds real relationships with a few of her clients and I won’t lie, I cried when she lost two of her most significant clients. Ahren was a bit harder for me get behind but when he determines it is time for he and Gen to be together, he is a force to be reckoned with and I found myself totally behind him. Ahren is intense, serious, creative, kind and, totally devoted to Genevieve and that endeared him to me. Aside from the awesome characters, there is also the connection between absolutely every aspect of this read. Even though Gen and Ahren are separated for a decade, they are still connected through the people Gen works with, their personal narratives and, the people they (her clients) have encountered throughout their own lives. The connections are so smooth and so perfectly revealed that they create a deeper and far more interesting read. In all, The Morbid and Sultry Tales of Genevieve Clare is one of the most significant reads I have encountered this year. It is a well-written, emotional and, thoroughly entertaining read that I heartily recommend to all NA+ readers.