Skip to Main Content

Married for a Month


See More Retailers

About The Book

Two former lovers argue over the key to everlasting love in this charming, funny, and steamy romance from the “one of a kind” (RT Book Reviews) author Susan Mallery.

Taylor McGuire, a hardworking single mom with a PhD in psychology, believes that compatibility is the key to a successful marriage. Bestselling relationship guru Jonathan Kirby believes it’s sexual chemistry. So when these two former lovers meet up on national TV, it’s more than just a difference of expert opinion that sets the sparks flying between them.

And when Taylor puts forth her theory on love, Jonathan can’t help but challenge: “Want to bet?” So begins an unconventional contest—forty couples involved in a monthlong mock marriage for a chance to win one million dollars—which puts Taylor’s and Jonathan’s professional reputations on the line. As the competition heats up, so does the attraction. And as they fall for each other, the two experts realize that love is not a science...sometimes it’s just magic.


Chapter 1

We have a surprise for you, Taylor,” Katrina Melon said in her oh-so-perky voice.

Taylor McGuire blinked at the fifty-something TV host and forced herself to speak, despite the fact that her throat was closing tight enough to snap steel. “No,” she managed, then licked dry lips. “No surprises.”

Katrina, in her too-pink Chanel suit, with her styled white-blond hair and perfectly made-up, taut features, leaned forward and patted her hand. “You’ll be fine,” she murmured soothingly.

Oh, yeah, right, Taylor thought, desperately searching for the humor in the situation. Her palms regularly went from damp to dripping, while her legs trembled—even though she was sitting down. If this was fine, she couldn’t wait to experience anxious or even panicked. The good news was she could now say she’d had a near-death moment and survived. The bad news was that she was seconds away from making a complete fool of herself in front of millions of viewers, including her friends and family back home in Texas.

Katrina put down her notes and smiled again, sort of—with her tight skin it was hard to tell. “All set?”

Taylor didn’t answer. What was the point? The plastic princess would dismiss any protests she made. Instead she concentrated on her breathing, trying to ignore the fact that Psychology in the News was a well-respected national show produced in New York. Professionally produced, not badly done by strange people on shaky handheld cameras. Actual doctors and professors and cutting-edge psychologists watched the show, participated in the debates and wrote papers about subjects discussed. Taylor herself rarely missed the weekly broadcast.

Katrina’s features relaxed slightly into an expression of sympathy. “I know we were going to bring you on the last two minutes of the show and talk about your theory. What was the title of your thesis again?”

“Compatibility as the Key to a Successful Marriage,” she managed through clenched teeth.

“Right. But with Dr. Bill getting food poisoning last night and our show being live, we had to make some changes.” Katrina patted her hand. “Think of the exposure. Maybe now you’ll get a book contract.”

“Maybe,” Taylor murmured, thinking she would rather go home. Dreams of fame and fortune were way overrated, anyway. Right?

A man standing just outside the bright lights yelled something about ten seconds back to air.

Exposure for her theory, she reminded herself, repeating the phrase like a mantra. Exposure meant interest. Interest could mean a sale. A sale meant a lot of things—like the potential of financial stability, validation, and a chance to feel she’d accomplished her goals.

She’d been doing her darnedest to sell her book on compatibility, but so far no one had made an offer. Part of the problem was her lack of expertise. She was a single mom from a small town no one had ever heard of. Her doctorate was so new that in human terms, it was still a zygote and her entire publishing history consisted of exactly two professional articles. Hardly a body of work impressive enough to inspire excitement in the publishing world.

Or on television, she thought, wondering how she was supposed to fill thirty minutes of live TV.

“Five, four, three—”

Suddenly the lights got much brighter and Katrina turned her smooth face toward an invisible audience.

“We’re back with Dr. Taylor McGuire, whose thesis, ‘Compatibility as the Key to a Successful Marriage,’ is stirring interest in the world of psychology. Tell us about your ideas, Dr. McGuire.”

Taylor tried to remember the only yoga class she’d ever attended. She’d been unable to walk for nearly a week after because her body just plain didn’t bend that way, but she did recall how wonderful the deep breathing had been. That was what she needed to do now. Keep breathing.

“I have a private practice,” she said, hoping her voice wasn’t shaking as badly as she feared. “Over the past few years the emphasis has been on marriage counseling and premarital seminars. I began to notice a pattern in successful relationships—not just marriages. From my observations I realized that the more people had in common, the more easily they could get along.”

Katrina nodded. “You realize that there are those who don’t agree with you.”

“Of course.” Taylor thought about saying they were wrong.

“One such person is a frequent and popular guest here on Psychology in the News. Dr. Jonathan Kirby. Dr. Kirby, as we all know, believes that opposites attract and make for the most exciting marriages. In fact, he’s written several books on the subject. He’s here now and I’m hoping that he and Dr. McGuire can enter into a spirited discussion on the matter.”

The room might have been blurring before, but now it was positively spinning. Jonathan Kirby here? Now? It wasn’t possible. No trick of fate could be that unkind.

Oh, but it could, she realized a heartbeat later when a tall, dark-haired man strolled out onto the set. He had a lean, yet powerful body, and moved with the grace of someone comfortable in front of a television camera. Or naked. Jonathan had always been completely unselfconscious in the buff. It was just one of oh, fifty million factoids that zipped through her brain. They flew through in a nanosecond, accompanied by a screaming voice reminding her that seventeen years ago, Dr. Jonathan Kirby had dumped her and walked away without a backward glance.

This is so unfair, she thought. Reminding herself that life was not fair didn’t make her feel any better. She wasn’t even surprised. This was so her life. Just when she thought she had it all together, a ghost from her past showed up to rip it all apart… on live television, no less.

“And we’re out,” the disembodied voice from beyond the cameras called. “Back in a minute-thirty, people. Stay ready.”

The intensity of lights faded some. Katrina rushed from behind her desk toward Jonathan.

“Thank you so much for coming,” she purred, placing one long, slender hand on his upper arm. “When I heard that Dr. Bill was sick and our only other guest was Taylor here, I nearly died.” Katrina flashed Taylor a smile. “No offense, dear, but no one has heard of you, and your ideas aren’t exactly earth-shattering enough to fill up the entire half hour.”

Taylor wasn’t offended. She felt like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. Of all the psychologists and all the talk shows in all the world, why did he have to show up at this one?

Jonathan didn’t respond to Katrina, instead focusing all of his considerable attention on Taylor, making her feel as if she were the most beautiful creature on the planet. He’d always been good at that trick, she reminded herself, even as she fell for it.

“Congratulations,” he said, speaking for the first time, “on receiving your doctorate and your publications.”

That voice. That liquid chocolate, come-to-bed-with-me-and-I’ll-make-you-touch-the-stars voice. Telling her-self she was immune was one thing. Ignoring the sensation of bone-melting desire was another.

“Congratulations to you as well,” she said, giving him her best smile and thanking God her bout with the flu the previous month had made her lose five pounds. “You always wanted to be the top in your field and you are. Dr. Jonathan Kirby, superstar.”

“Thirty seconds, people.”

Katrina raised an eyebrow. “You two know each other?”

“Of course,” Taylor said, holding out her hand to the man who had once been the center of her universe. The sudden flood of sexual attraction was a tad distracting but she was determined to be a grown-up about the situation.

She realized then that facing a blast from her past was the best medicine for overcoming her fear of being on television. The trembling had fled. In its place was a sense of purpose. She could debate Jonathan Kirby and win because she did it every time he was on the show. She paced in her living room, shot off witty responses, exposed his theories to the light of logic and soundly trounced him. She would ignore the fact that their one-sided conversations didn’t give him the opportunity to answer back.

Jonathan took her hand in his and held it as they moved toward the seats.

“I’m looking forward to debating your theory,” he said easily.

“I’m looking forward to winning,” she said, settling next to him and removing her fingers from his, trying not to let anyone see that his touch had burned all the way down to her geez-I-haven’t-had-sex-in-three-years soul.

“In five, four, three—”

The lights came up. “Welcome back,” Katrina said, staring directly at the camera with the red light on top. “Dr. Kirby, what do you think of Dr. McGuire’s theory of compatible couples having the best marriages?”

“I would say it’s interesting, but not statistically sound. As I’ve said before, what makes a marriage work is just that—work. We’ve all seen couples whom everyone assumes will stay together for years divorce after a few months, and other couples who don’t have a prayer of a happy relationship staying together for fifty years. A good portion of marital longevity comes from a willingness to stick it out through the tough times. Add in sexual compatibility and attraction, and you’ve got a winner.”

Taylor found herself getting distracted by the reality of seeing Jonathan again after all these years. Focus, she told herself. Deal with him later. She had to concentrate on his theories and blast them into the ether.

Taylor leaned forward slightly and smiled at Jonathan. “Dr. Kirby is referring to anecdotal evidence,” she said calmly. “Those great stories we all like to tell of people triumphing over nearly impossible odds. However, they are the exception, rather than the rule. Most people consciously and subconsciously seek a partner who is similar in most respects. Life is made more pleasant when our partner has the same fundamental value system, as well as a like expectation for future goals, such as wanting or not wanting children. I’m afraid Dr. Kirby is confusing good drama with real life.”

Katrina glanced at her, surprise and the tiniest kernel of respect in her wide eyes. “Jonathan, how do you respond?”

He winked at Taylor. “I’d ask about sexual attraction. In my view, it’s one of the most powerful forces around and far more important than compatibility. I would also remind my esteemed colleague that a traditional marriage is made up of two of the most fundamentally different creatures on the planet,” he said. “A man and a woman. Talk about opposites attracting.”

Katrina chuckled. “Excellent point.” She reached over and patted Jonathan’s arm.

Taylor resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Traditional marriages might be made up of men and women, but Katrina had more in common with a cat in heat. Of course, women had always loved Jonathan, flocking to him everywhere he went.

“All the more reason to have them compatible,” Taylor said crisply. “Growth and change are a natural part of a life cycle. If two people begin a journey together in relatively the same place, emotionally, and share the same experiences, the odds of them going in the same direction are much greater.”

Jonathan shook his head. “Dr. McGuire, you couldn’t be more wrong. If two people are in the same place when they start, you can bet they’re going to end up in different places. It’s not about starting in the same place, it’s about the goal. We can be on opposite sides of a mountain, but if we both head for the peak, we’ll end up standing on top. And if we have good sex along the way, all the better.”

Taylor ignored that last comment. “Life is not a journey up a mountain. It’s a road trip with no map. People who are alike understand each other. They work together, each supporting the other.”

“Or they get bored, fall asleep and drive into a ditch.”

Katrina chuckled. “An excellent point, Dr. Kirby.” Reluctantly, she turned her attention to Taylor. “Dr. McGuire, what does your thesis say about the boredom issue? If people are too alike, don’t they get tired of each other?”

“Not at all. When two similar people build a life together, they have goals and want to achieve them. Who would you rather have on your side? Someone you understand and can depend upon, or an exciting, but unfamiliar wild card, who may not be there when times get tough?”

Jonathan grinned. “So you’re admitting that similar couples are unexciting.”

Taylor winced as she realized she’d neatly baited her own trap and stepped into it. “My point is, when times get tough, and they will, most people prefer to have a known entity on their side. For the initial thrill of the chase, someone different can be an interesting diversion, but in the long haul, we want a partner similar to ourselves.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Want to bet?”

Taylor blinked at him. “Excuse me?”

“I am asking if you’re willing to wager on your theory. You know. Put your money where your mouth is.”

She glanced at Katrina. Was this a setup? But their pink-clad host looked as confused as she felt.

“Dr. Kirby?”

“Dr. McGuire and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum,” he told the camera. “I thought it might be interesting to find out who’s right. Let the people decide. I propose we set up a contest to test our respective theories.”

“You’re crazy,” Taylor said without thinking.

Jonathan touched her arm, sending a river of sparks floating through her. “Dr. McGuire, you know we don’t use words like that in our profession.”

“All right,” Taylor said twenty minutes later when they were off the air and standing in a conference room. “Maybe crazy was a bad choice of words, but there’s something very wrong with you.”

“Is that your professional opinion?” Jonathan asked, enjoying the temper flaring in her eyes and the way Taylor wouldn’t look at him.

How long had it been since he’d last seen her? Ten years? Fifteen? She’d been all of eighteen when they’d gone their separate ways. He’d been nearly as young and just as foolish.

She placed her hands on her hips and sucked in a breath, the way she always had when she’d been preparing herself for battle. Funny how he could remember that. He could also remember what they’d been like together in bed—they’d created enough heat and energy to power a solar system.

“Don’t toy with me, Jonathan,” she told him. “You may be an incredibly popular media psychologist, but you don’t impress me.”

“You never were one to be impressed easily. I’m glad you got your degree, Taylor. I know that was important to you.”

She glared at him. “You’re not some doting aunt meeting me at a family reunion. Quit pretending you know anything about me.”

“I used to know everything about you.” His gaze settled on her neck and the sweet spot under her ear where she loved him to—

“Whatever you’re thinking, stop it,” she demanded. “I know I’m not in your professional league. As far as the world is concerned, you’re the expert and I’m just some hick from a small town. Well, here’s a news flash—I know I’m good at what I do. I don’t spend my days being an expert guest on every talk show on the planet and I don’t make a career out of publishing bestsellers. I work with patients, and I understand what helps them and what doesn’t. I see validation of my theories on a daily basis and I deeply resent your attempting to make a mockery of me and my ideas.”

She practically breathed fire as she spoke. So much energy, he thought, enjoying her passion.

Had she always been this beautiful, he wondered, watching her blue-gray eyes widen with indignation and the way her mouth trembled. Her shoulder-length hair was still the color of honey, and if he remembered correctly, as soft as silk.

He leaned against the wall and folded his arms over his chest. “When did you get so earnest?”

“When did you sell out?”

“When the money got good.”

Before Taylor could reply, Katrina burst into the room. She clutched a pad of paper to her chest. “The phones are going crazy. Legal’s screaming about it, but who cares what they think.” She hurried toward him and crowded close. “Jonathan, you’re a genius. Do you know what this is going to do for the show’s ratings and for your book sales? A contest based on your two opposing theories. It’s brilliant.”

“Thank you,” he said modestly, watching Taylor instead of the talk-show host.

“I’ve already spoken with your publisher’s publicity department,” Katrina continued. “We think this can be big. And we came up with a brilliant idea. After all, people must be motivated to participate, right? So there’s going to be prize money for some very lucky contestant! And a big boost to both your careers!”

She clasped her hands together. “Get this. By taking a small percentage of book sales, plus money from your publisher and our show, we think we can put together a million dollars.”

“Quite a price for selling one’s soul,” Taylor said.

“You don’t have to agree to this,” Jonathan told her, ignoring Katrina, who was still talking.

He watched Taylor’s internal battle. The only signs were a slight tightening of her too-wide mouth and a faint tension in her body. What was at stake for her? Why didn’t she just tell him to go to hell?

And then he knew. Taylor thought she was right and she desperately wanted to beat him. But was her interest just about the book she wanted to sell or was it more personal?

“Interesting dilemma,” he murmured. “Idealism battling plain, old-fashioned ambition.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.

“I’m sure you do.”

He stared at her until she looked away first. He’d come up with the idea of the bet on a whim. Now he was starting to see it was one of the best ideas he’d ever had.

Katrina glanced at them both. “Then we’re in agreement? We’re going to do this?”

Jonathan kept his gaze fixed firmly on Taylor. “Oh, yes. We’re going to take this one all the way.”

About The Author

Annie Brady

Susan Mallery is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship, romance. As “the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations” (Library Journal), she has sold over forty million copies of her books worldwide. Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the ragdoll cat and adorable poodle who think of her as mom.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Pocket Books (January 10, 2023)
  • Length: 368 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781668012123

Browse Related Books

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

More books from this author: Susan Mallery