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Book covers for NOT YOUR AVERAGE HOT GUY and THE DATE FROM HELL by Gwenda Bond

Do you wish Dan Brown books were sexy and full of pop culture references? Do you like your religious artifact stories with comedy and kissing? Have I got the books for you!

Gwenda Bond’s books are always The Most Fun and her madcap fantasy romance duology is no exception.

First up, NOT YOUR AVERAGE HOT GUY:

Callie is a recentish college grad with no particular direction in life but a great love of books, learning, and creepy religious lore. She also works at her mom’s escape room. When Callie designs an immersive culty room and puts a book in it that is ACTUALLY an arcane artifact, cultists come to claim it and try to use it to release a demon on earth to bring about the end times. But instead they summon Luke, the super sexy prince of Hell. Wackiness ensues as Callie and Luke must team up to find the Holy Lance (that’s the Spear of Destiny for you The Librarian fans) and keep it from the cultists (who don’t actually know that Luke isn’t the demon they were trying to summon). To do so, they travel through painful demon magic, bopping around the world in a way that would make an Indiana Jones map look like Charlie Kelly’s conspiracy board:

Charlie from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia in front of a conspiracy board covered in documents and yarn. Text reads ‘Is the Holy Lance here? Or is it here?’

Because you know how romance works, you know that they figure it out and get a Happy For Now. It’s important that it’s a HFN because a Happily Ever After wouldn’t leave room for the sequel:

THE DATE FROM HELL

Callie and Luke are happily dating now and they have an amazing date planned. But they also have a bit of a revolution planned: Callie wants to petition Lucifer to reconsider the damnation of people like Agnes, a 12-year-old girl who really probably should not have been sent to hell and certainly isn’t an adult by modern standards. Lucifer agrees to a meeting — on the day Callie and Luke are scheduled to have their big date. Which also happens to be the same day Callie is supposed to be helping her mom with a big escape room event to raise the money to make repairs after the mess she and Luke got into in NOT YOUR AVERAGE HOT GUY. Lucifer says that Callie and Luke have 72 hours to prove that they can redeem someone who deserves to be released from hell. The person he chooses is Sean, a lost-Hemsworth-brother-type/international art thief who oh, by the way, is a Grail seeker. More wacky hijinks ensue, more traveling by map, and more Arthuriana than you can shake Excalibur at. (Excalibur isn’t in the book to my recollection, by the way.) I briefly found myself thinking for a moment, “How wild is all this Arthuriana just happening in Callie’s real life?” before remembering that OH YEAH HER BOYFRIEND IS THE PRINCE OF HELL.

Because it’s a romance, it ends with a tidy Happily Ever After (leaving Gwenda free to work on other romances like MR. & MRS. WITCH). Callie figures a lot of stuff out, so does Luke, and they get to be together, yay. (And if you consider that a spoiler, romance probably isn’t the genre for you.)

What I loved

So many things! But here’s a partial list:

I can’t think of them all. If this isn’t a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is: My whole family is going through a rough time right now and it makes it hard for me to immerse myself in a book. I would often read a chunk of THE DATE FROM HELL and then step away from it for a few days, but I ALWAYS CAME BACK. There are a lot of non-mandatory things I’m abandoning in life right now, but this book kept me returning.

What I need to warn you about

I really can’t think of much. I guess if you don’t like people being playful in stories about holy artifacts maybe skip these?

What I wanted more of

I can’t think of anything here either. Everything was exactly what it needed to be.

Who should read this

People who like Indiana Jones AND Sabrina (the Harrison Ford version). People who don’t know what to do with themselves and want to see somebody who also doesn’t know what to do with themself succeed at stuff. People who want a romance that is hot but not explicit. People who wished their were more badasses who were badass for reasons other than their ability to engage in combat (Callie is a badass and no one will convince me otherwise). People who need more fun in their lives.

Highly recommend.

Book: Not Your Average Hot Guy
Author: Gwenda Bond
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: October 5, 2021
Pages: 320
Age Range: Adult
Source of Book: Library Book

Book: The Date from Hell
Author: Gwenda Bond
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: April 5, 2022
Pages: 336
Age Range: Adult
Source of Book: ARC via NetGalley