Jessica Brock pic

 

Jessica works with romance titles from Berkley and NAL and is also a YA enthusiast. She lives in Brooklyn and is a huge fan of Supernatural, all things Joss Whedon, and live music.

 

 

 

 

 

the-shadows-by-jr-wardThe Shadows by J. R. Ward

As a long time Black Dagger Brotherhood series fan, needless to say I was SO excited to start reading The Shadows. Little did I know this would be one of the most emotional installments in the series so far, but that’s a good thing! With her now infamous blend of multiple plot lines, hilarious pop culture references and intricate world-building, Ward gives an unstoppable emotional ride with Trez and iAm’s story.

 

 

 

 

silver-bastard-by-joanna-wyldeSilver Bastard by Joanna Wylde

Joanna Wylde first hooked me into her world with Reaper’s Legacy, and now as a fan for life I was giddy when I found out there was going to be spinoff series set in a mining community with close ties another motorcycle club. Wylde’s writing remains gritty and raw but still very much emotional. These characters don’t have an easy life and they don’t really rise above it either – they actually plow right through it to get to their happy ever after. This one is dark, twisted, and definitely not for the faint of heart, but absolutely worth it. Sons of Anarchy fans, Silver Bastard is a must read along with all of her Reapers MC books!

 

 

still-the-one-by-jill-shalvisStill The One by Jill Shalvis

I’m sure I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to repeat myself, but no one mixes humor and steam quite like Jill Shalvis. The sassy ladies, bromances, humor, sexy times, and adorable animals make the Animal Magnetism series, set in small-town Idaho, stand out for me as far as contemporary romances go and Still The One is no exception. Plus, I can’t get enough of a good hero/heroine pair who can give each other a hard time and still be so completely in love.

 

 

 

 

captive-prince-by-c-s-pacatCaptive Prince by C. S. Pacat

So #DiverseBooks isn’t just a YA thing – we LOVE them in romance too! Captive Prince is not only a superbly written fantasy, but it features a male/male couple! Their relationship is so layered and complicated that it’s impossible not to be completely enthralled with this book. Did I mention it’s a master/slave story line surrounded by impending warring countries and nefarious enemies? One word – EPIC. Okay, one more hyphenated word, must-read!

 

 

 

too-dangerous-for-a-lady-by-jo-beverleyToo Dangerous For A Lady by Jo Beverley

It is so much fun getting swept up in a historical romance and New York Times bestselling author Jo Beverley’s Too Dangerous for A Lady has everything I’m looking for. A strong heroine, a rogue-type man with a hero complex, a pinch of danger, and the world of corsets and stays…I’m so in! There’s something about the dialogue between our hero and leading lady (and most historicals for that matter) that just gives you the sense that our modern day flirty banter is just utterly lacking in comparison. I always end up thinking “it would so be so much more fun if we still talked like that” so when I read TDFAL, at least I got to live in that mindset for a while…

 

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carolyn

Carolyn Telesca is an Associate Director in Berkley Production, managing the backlist production for all Berkley formats and imprints, along with Perigee and Riverhead Trade.  She is passionate about reading and publishing, and loves that she gets to come to work every day, and make books!

 

 

 

some girls bite

Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampire Series – starting with “Some Girls Bite”

This is a great series for anyone that loves a vampire series without an overtly romantic undertone.  While there are romantic relationships, Neill is able to continually develop her characters on a believable arch and plot line, which continues to draw me in even 11 books into the series. I also love all of the references to the great city of Chicago. Merritt is an amazing heroine thrust into a world she never asked for and certainly didn’t want.  As she continues to fight for her independence and retain who she is inside, while taking her responsibilities to her new “family” seriously, it’s difficult not to root for her and want to be her friend.

 

 

mooncalled

Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series – starting with “Moon Called”

Another fantastic author with a strong female heroine at the heart of it all, Moon Called kicks off the Mercy Thompson series in a captivating way.  As a no-nonsense mechanic by day, coyote shifter by night, Mercy finds herself embroiled in the local Pack politics.  Having grown up with werewolves, she is no stranger to the dangers and ways of this culture.  Briggs gives you an amazing story with believable and lovable characters that you find yourself cheering for time and again.  As the characters grow through the series, you find yourself wanting to know more and more about them.  As I tend to find myself drawn to strong female characters, this is a definite win in my book for the promise of a great read!

 

foolmoon

Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series – starting with “Fool Moon”

Taking place in Chicago, IL the Dresden Files series centers around Harry Dresden – a gruff wizard for hire that is hard not to love.  Butcher’s development of this sarcastic and witty down-on-his-luck hero is absolutely brilliant.  I found that Fool Moon was incredibly entertaining but I actually came to love the series more and more with each book that followed.  The way Butcher is able to draw you in, you feel sucker-punched once you realize that you are emotionally invested in what happens to his characters, and find yourself heart-broken at times right alongside them.

 

 

 

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roy

Denise Roy is a Senior Editor at Dutton, focusing on fiction. Each April, she rereads Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder.

 

 

 

mrs grant

Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule, by Jennifer Chiaverini

Some of the greatest love stories in American history feature a chapter at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In 1844, the shy Missouri belle Julia Dent met Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant, a brilliant horseman and reluctant soldier. The two fell deeply in love, but four years passed before Julia’s father permitted them to wed. The groom’s abolitionist family refused to attend the ceremony. Though Julia had the company of Jule–her namesake slave who served as her vision (Mrs. Grant was nearly blind) and her confidante until she emancipated herself in 1863–she and her husband, the great general of the Union Army, endured years of separation and the privations of the Civil War until they were finally brought together as President and First Lady. New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini reveals the details of this great American love story—never before told in fictional form.

girl

Girl Underwater, by Claire Kells

In the wilderness, the concept of survival is clear-cut. Simple. In the real world, it’s anything but. “What if the most devastating moment of your life was also the beginning of something beautiful?” New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult praises Claire Kells’ debut novel Girl Underwater, “a compelling coming-of-age love story that will have you rooting for its teen narrator, a girl who survives a disaster, and finds herself trapped between a traumatic past and a fragile future. Trust me–dive in!” If that’s not enough to convince you, “Kells expertly ratchets up the tension in her thrilling debut novel . . . With its subzero temperatures that will make you reach for a blanket and a wounded but never weakened heroine, Kells’ assured debut is a winner.” (Kirkus) Read one page of Girl Underwater, and you’ll be hooked, instantly.

 

oh you

Oh! You Pretty Things by Shanna Mahin

Jess Dunne is third-generation Hollywood, but her star on the boulevard has yet to materialize. Sure, she’s got a Santa Monica address and a working actress roommate, but with her nowhere barista job in a town that acknowledges zeroes only as a dress size, she’s a dead girl walking. Enter Jess’s mother—a failed actress who puts the strange in estrangement. She dives headlong into her daughter’s downward spiral, forcing Jess to muster all her spite and self-preservation. Oh! You Pretty Things is a family love story and an ode to the city that has inspired endless fantasies. There is also a botanical stylist named Kirk who really fills out a T-shirt. Welcome to Hollywood.

 

 

sweet

Sweet Forgiveness, by Lori Nelson Spielman

It’s hard to say “I’m sorry,” but Lori Nelson Spielman, #1 international bestselling author of The Life List and master of high-concept fiction, has invented an ingenious method.  In her new novel, Sweet Forgiveness, the urge for atonement is sweeping the nation in the form of a phenomenon called the “Forgiveness Stones.”  Nelson Spielman has a flair for dropping her characters into highly relatable situations that will have readers thinking, feeling, and rooting for wrongs to be righted. After you read Sweet Forgiveness, you’ll never again be tempted to give up on someone you love.

 

 

river

The River of No Return, by Bee Ridgway

This debut novel that combines spy thriller, historical romance, science fiction, and fantasy reads like “the love child of Jane Austen and Dr. Who” (Eloisa James). Named a “Best of the Year” with “the feel of an instant classic, along the lines of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” by The Washington Post, this “thrill ride” (Vanity Fair), time-bending chronicle of lovers separated by centuries, dares the reader to sample John Donne’s poetry without blushing.

 

 

 

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wendymccurdy

Wendy McCurdy is an Executive Editor at Berkley Books.  As you can see from her picture, in which she is holding several childhood favorites that she rescued from her parents’ house before they down-sized, she has been a romance reader pretty much since she learned how to read.  So the fact that she is able to indulge her taste for romantic fiction in her profession is a dream come true.

 

 

 

forbiddenrose

The Forbidden Rose, by Joanna Bourne

Joanna Bourne’s books have been staff picks at least twice before.  Pretty soon we are going to run out of titles.  Joanna, if you are reading this, please write faster!  But in the meantime, I’m highlighting THE FORBIDDEN ROSE, a beautifully written, completely captivating historical romance that accomplishes what I might have thought impossible: turning Doyle, the unforgettable and gruffly lovable British spy who is Grey’s partner in THE SPYMASTER’S LADY, into a romantic lead.  And what a hero he turns out to be. THE FORBIDDEN ROSE is a tour de force of sheer romance.

 

 

lastrenegade

The Last Renegade, by Jo Goodman

Jo Goodman has been writing excellent western historical romances  filled with intelligence and humor for many years now, and she just keeps getting better.  Even her love scenes are filled with intelligence and humor.  THE LAST RENEGADE is one of her finest, along with IN WANT OF A WIFE, which I also can’t resist mentioning.

 

 

 

 

redbikini

The Red Bikini, by Lauren Christopher 

A lovely debut novel  about a divorced mother who flees to her sister’s California beach house for a two-week getaway and encounters romance in the form of a very hot celebrity athlete who is lying low after some mistakes in the past. This is charming and funny–a delicious read.

 

 

 

 

 

surrender

The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne, by Madeline Hunter

All of Madeline Hunter’s romances are wonderful, but this one is a particular favorite of mine. Watching the headstrong Emma Fairbourne take on the arrogant Earl of Southwaite is a pleasure.  What I really appreciate here are the undercurrents, the way Madeline conveys what’s really going on—usually something pretty hilarious—without ever overtly stating it.  The hot love scenes don’t hurt either.

 

 

 

 

practice

Practice Makes Perfect, by Julie James

Julie James has also been a staff pick in the past for JUST THE SEXIEST MAN ALIVE.  I’m choosing to highlight PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT,  her second novel, and a real gem of romantic comedy.  Our two main characters are lawyers who are battling it out to make partner at a Chicago law firm.  How they try to get the better of each other results in some of the funniest scenes I’ve ever read—and also makes it that much more romantic when their dislike for each other begins to turn into something else.

 

 

 

piecesofsky

Pieces of Sky, by Kaki Warner

What a wonderful piece of romantic western fiction this is.  Kaki deservedly won kudos for this splendid novel that kick-started her career as one of the today’s finest western romance writers.  It is one of my favorite books that I ever acquired, not only because it’s such a great read, but because I still remember how it felt to take the rubber band off that first manuscript—which actually came in through the mail—and start reading, and to know instantly that this was going to be a great read.  (This may actually be my last acquisition that came in via mail rather than email!)

 

 

 

ravishing

Ravishing the Heiress, by Sherry Thomas

After the hundreds—probably thousands—of romances that I have edited, it is rare for me to be as moved by a romance as I was by this one.  I’m not even going to try to articulate what it was about this novel that so got to me.  All I will say is that those with a taste for an exquisitely rendered historical romance should not miss RAVISHING THE HEIRESS or any of Sherry Thomas’s novels.

 

 

 

 

A FINAL NOTE: It was very difficult to limit myself to seven romance picks.  I have at least seven more that I want to add. But I will save those for next time.

 

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photo of J Wade

Jessica Wade is a senior editor, acquiring science fiction and fantasy for Ace & Roc books, and some mystery too. But she’s become an avid romance reader since working at Penguin Random House and she’s delighted to share her can’t-miss-books on Berkley/NAL’s romance list!

 

 

 

 

onlyenchanting

Only Enchanting, by Mary Balogh

When I first started reading historicals, and kept asking people who their favorite regency author was, a name that came up over and over was Mary Balogh. Her writing is emotional, lovely, and clever, and I’ve adored every book of hers I’ve read. The newest is Only Enchanting. I’m reading it right now and it’s SO GOOD. It’s got tension and angst and wonderfully nuanced characters. People told me she was the best, and they were so right!

 

 

 

 

rogue

Rogue Spy, by Joanna Bourne

Joanna Bourne’s historicals are unusual, thrilling masterworks, set among English and French spies in roughly the time of the French revolution. Bourne’s deft dialogue, unforgettable characters, swift pacing, and rich historical detail are irresistible. Her books are mostly interlinked, and focus on secondary characters you’ve met in previous novels, so it’s a ton of fun to get to know ‘old’ characters in new ways. Her most recent book is Rogue Spy, and it’s totally wonderful. I also particularly enjoyed The Forbidden Rose and The Black Hawk.

 

 

 

justthesexiest

Just the Sexiest Man Alive, by Julie James

If you haven’t read Julie James, get thee to a bookery, and I mean NOW.  These books are The. Most. Fun. Romances. EVAR. Our whole office is essentially a big Julie James fan club. Julie writes contemporaries, and most focus on lawyers and FBI agents. Her dialogue is SOLID GOLD.  The heroines are all feisty, fun, interesting modern women, and the heroes aren’t bad either. I have introduced so many friends who have never read romance to Julie James, and to a one, the response I have gotten is basically a version of “OH MY GOD WHERE HAVE THESE BOOKS BEEN ALL MY LIFE.” Right here, kids, and by right here I mean wherever books are sold. I’ll say start with Just the Sexiest Man Alive, about a lawyer who has a famous actor, with a famous ego, assigned to shadow her. High jinks ensue. But really, every one of her books is wonderful.

 

ondublin

On Dublin Street, by Samantha Young

Samantha Young writes seriously intense contemporaries. I loved ON DUBLIN STREET, which tells the story of American, early-twenty something Joss, hiding from her past in Scotland. The hero is pretty alpha, and their romance sizzles off the page… it’s ultra emotional, angsty, and engaging, and I stayed up til 2 am to finish it in one sitting.

 

 

 

 

afterhours

After Hours, by Cara McKenna

Cara McKenna writes superhot, gritty contemporaries. When I heard in a meeting that the hero of After Hours was an orderly at a psychiatric hospital, I knew this book was something really different… and I wondered how it would work. But oh my goodness, it does. She writes fluid, searing prose, and has perfected the unusual hero (and heroine). At the very top of my TBR pile are her Hard Time (which centers around a prison library) and Lay it Down (about a motorcycle gang).

 

 

 

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amanda

Amanda Rodell is an Associate National Account Manager in Penguin Adult sales.  She sells to Brodart and Baker & Taylor, and has been at Penguin for 6 years, devouring all the free books she can get her hands on.

 

 

 

flight

Flight of the Silvers, by Daniel Price

Flight of the Silvers is a fantastic read, both science fiction, and dystopian, with a Superhero element, and wonderful characters you can’t help but love. There are romantic and sister-relationship subplots as well.  This fast-paced story of a chosen few saved from the apocalypse will hold you rapt until the end.

 

 

 

 

 

midnight

Midnight Crossroad, by Charlaine Harris

Once again, Charlaine introduces a small southern town full of uniquely quirky characters and their supernatural problems.  This is the start of a new series with lots of potential and a murder mystery from the get-go.  The second book in the series, Day Shift, comes out in May 2015, and is even more gripping, with cameos from some characters you may recognize from the Sookie Stackhouse books.

 

 

 

 

blackdagger

The Black Dagger Brotherhood series, by JR Ward

These sexy vampire romances may be too steamy to read on the subway, but are perfect for vacation or stay-cation.  There’s action as these warrior vampires fight for the survival of their race against the Lessors, but it’s the push and pull of the relationships that will keep you flipping the pages, thirsty for more.

 

 

 

deadtome

Dead to Me, by Anton Strout

I have the distinct please of working with the author, and love how well his witty and sardonic voice comes through in his books. This is the first in the Simon Canderous series, in which a paranormal investigator uses his powers to solve otherworldly crimes.  Perfect for fans of Jim Butcher, you’re sure to love this romp through the extraordinary underworld of NYC with wise-cracking detectives as your guides.

 

 

 

 

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Katherine Pelz photo

Katherine Pelz is an assistant editor at The Berkley Publishing Group, where she acquires romance, mystery and women’s fiction. During the rare moments when she’s not reading for business or pleasure, she’s in Brooklyn binge watching TV shows and hanging out with her cats.

 

 

 

 

 

spymaster

The Spymaster’s Lady, by Joanna Bourne

Joanna Bourne is, hands down, one of the best historical romance writers out there. Her writing, her characters, her settings, her plots…they are all THAT good. If you’re a historical romance reader and you’ve never read one of her Spymaster novels, you’re missing out on a master of the genre. Get your hands on a copy ASAP.

 

 

 

 

unwrapped

Unwrapped, by Maisey Yates

Small town contemporary romances are all the rage these days, and nobody writes one better than Maisey Yates. Her voice is fresh and ridiculously readable. UNWRAPPED is a holiday read that’s both hot and full of heart.

 

 

 

 

 

garden

The Garden of Letters, by Alyson Richman

Not strictly a romance, but a beautiful and moving historical novel that explores the pain and power of first love. It’s an experience that will stay with you long after you’ve read the final page.

 

 

 

 

 

exchange

Exchange of Fire, by P.A. DePaul

If you like some action with your romance, then you need to check out P.A. DePaul’s romantic suspense series. The heroine of Exchange of Fire is a sniper—I love a strong heroine (and a hero that can keep up with her!)

 

 

 

 

 

whenwemet

When We Met, by A. L. Jackson, Molly McAdams, Tiffany King and Christina Lee

I love reading New Adult romance, and WHEN WE MET contains stories from four of my top New Adult authors. You get four times the romance (and four times the hot heroes) with this one!

 

 

 

 

 

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isabel

Isabel Farhi is an editorial assistant at NAL/Ace/Roc, where she works on romance novels and science fiction & fantasy novels. When not at work, she watches anything with characters she can ship—and magic is an added bonus!

 

 

 

 

somegirlsbite

Some Girls Bite, by Chloe Neill

Paranormal equals vampires, and while I’m not usually a huge vampire fan I haven’t found better vampires than the Chicagoland vampires. Merit’s a grad student-turned-badass vampire, and she’s refreshingly human and fun to read. What’s really great about Chloe Neill is that her books just keep getting better as her world expands, and the twists and turns of her plots can last over books. But it always comes back to Merit and her vampire master/boss/lover, Ethan—who’s more than a little the attraction of these books as well!

 

 

 

writteninred

Written in Red, by Anne Bishop 

I was introduced to Anne Bishop years ago with her Black Jewels series, but this book plunged me back into her fan club, fast. As a history buff in my spare time, I loved how this book set up an alternate history and mythology where humans had always had to share their world with otherworldly creatures, and seeing how that changed our history—and even more, I loved seeing those otherworldly creatures interact with humans. Anne Bishops really captures the feeling that these beings are not human at all and they don’t think like us, and it makes for a fascinating, intense read.

 

 

Untitled-1On The Edge, by Ilona Andrews

Ilona Andrews is better known for her Kate Daniels series, but I really enjoyed this lesser known series. It’s nice to have a heroine who isn’t as blasé as some of the more jaded paranormal detectives—Rose is cynical, but she’s unsophisticated as well, and she’s learning things right along with the reader. None of which keeps her from being whip-smart, and more than a match for the powerful aristocrat who comes sniffing around. This world’s also a far cry from a lot of fantasy worlds—not only is it much more rural, set in the backwoods—but the magic system’s incredibly intriguing. It’s definitely world worth exploring! And the hero and heroine’s frustrated chemistry is really delightful.

 

 

heartofsteel

Heart of Steel, by Meljean Brooks 

The only thing better than pirates? Pirates in airships! The only thing better than pirates in airships? A female pirate captain who’s totally in charge and ruthless enough to stay there. And the only thing better than that? Watching her fall in love, and not get any weaker for it. I love subverting tropes, and the way this romance turns the pirate and his captor trope on its head makes it a great read. Their banter and constant one-upping contest just makes it better! With the adventure and swashbuckling as well as the romance to drive the story along, I couldn’t put this book down.

 

 

 

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leis

Prior to her career in publishing Leis Pederson was busy getting her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and selling t-shirts and cigars on the beach. After abandoning that glamorous lifestyle she began her life at Berkley as an editorial intern and worked her way up. Now Leis is a Senior Editor with The Berkley Publishing Group. She acquires commercial fiction, including romance (all subgenres), erotic romance, urban fantasy, women’s fiction, mysteries and new adult.

 

 

danceupontheair

Dance Upon the Air, by Nora Roberts

Love! A little bit of magic, a lot of romance and a great setting have me coming back to this book (and this series) again and again. I may have read it five or six times already but don’t tell anyone.

 

 

 

 

 

passion

Passion, by Lisa Valdez

This is an older book, but one that has always stood out for me. If you like historical romance with an extremely sexy edge, then this is the book for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

bitterspirit

Bitter Spirits, by Jenn Bennett

Hands down one of the best paranormal romance novels I have read in a long time, which is probably why I acquired it. I just love her voice and who doesn’t love a sexy bootlegger?

 

 

 

 

 

 

unforgiven

Unforgiven, by Anne Calhoun

Emotionally driven and atmospheric romance. I can’t get enough of this contemporary romance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

slavetosensation

Slave to Sensation, by Nalini Singh

I really have to recommend the whole series here. Nalini creates a world that just sucks you right in and I’m always holding my breath for the next one. Definitely a must read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mary_Stone
Mary Stone is the Assistant Marketing Manager for Putnam and Riverhead Books. Originally from Florida, she’s currently mourning the near-end of summer, because reading on a warm sunny beach is so much better than reading inside a snowed-in apartment.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

lastletter
I’m a huge Jojo Moyes fan: Me Before You had me in (admittedly!) ugly tears just a few pages in, The Girl You Left Behind completely transported me to World War 1 Paris – and made me never want to leave – and One Plus One had me thinking a long car ride with a handsome stranger might just be a great adventure. After reading those three, I knew I needed more, so this summer I picked up Jojo’s earlier novel, The Last Letter from Your Lover. Suddenly I was deep into another perfectly heartbreaking love story I just couldn’t quit – and the letters! Oh, just have tissues handy.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 

overseas
Overseas was the first book I officially read for work when I started at Penguin three years ago, and one colleagues still remember my instant – and persistent – passion for! When the worlds of a modern day NYC city slicker and a oh-so handsome World War 1 captain collide with a dabble of time travel, the result is a guiltily perfect romantic ride that will have you swooning with every page.  Since then, Beatriz Williams has followed up with last summer’s New York Times bestseller, A Hundred Summers, and this year’s beach read favorite, The Secret life of Violet Grant both highly recommended as well.

 
 
 
 
 
 

savethedate
While this is by no means a romance novel – it is in fact, a wonderfully funny memoir – I think it’s a read all romance fans will adore. It brings to light what romance, love and happily ever after really means in today’s world – and how my fairy tale ending might just be very different than yours, and that’s OK.   
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

on the island
If you’re looking for a book that is just pure escapism, I invite you to take a trip On the Island in Tracey Garvis Graves’s bestselling novel. (Truth: I enjoyed this book so much that I dressed up as the lead female, Anna Emerson, for Penguin’s annual Halloween party; see photo above.) A shocking plane crash brings Anna Emerson and her student, T.J. Callahan, to a deserted island – and in to the arms of one another. The island heat isn’t even the hottest part of this book…  enjoy!