We’re almost halfway through the year, but I’m nowhere near reading half the books in my towering to-be-read pile.

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Kat Mayo

We're almost halfway through the year, but I'm nowhere near reading half the books in my towering to-be-read pile. I hope you're making more progress than I am!

But prepare to add more books to that pile, because the Romance Writers of America recently announced the finalists for the RITA awards. Congratulations to Australian authors Sarah Mayberry, Bec McMaster and Beck Nicholas for their nominations. You can check out their books, and some of my favourites from the RITA list, below.

This month, bestselling romantic suspense author Suzanne Brockmann joins us to answer our Nine Naughty Questions. Her story, 'Home Fire Inferno', comes out in the anthology, Way of the Warrior. Check out what she has to say (warning: your TBR pile will grow even more!).

What I just finished: Unforgiven by Anne Calhoun - new favourite author!

What I'm reading now: The Captive Prince by C. S. Pacat - trying to draw it out until book 2 comes out in July!

What I can't wait for: Deep by Kylie Scott

Finally, if you're in Sydney, make sure you check out the Sydney Writers' Festival, where you'll find Booktopia's John Purcell and former Romance Buzz editor Kate Cuthbert talking about what we all have in common - our love for books.

Kat Mayo

Reader of Throbbing Books


Follow me on Twitter:@BookThingo

For exclusive offers, news on upcoming romance titles and general romance goss, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @LoveAtBooktopia.

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Lawless in Leather
New York Saints Series
by Melanie Scott

Kat says: There's nothing more delicious than a hero who likes control getting hot and bothered over a heroine who has no intention of letting him tell her what to do.

Melanie Scott's final New York Saints novel is my favourite in the series. Mal Coulter is in charge of security for the New York Saints, but cheerleading coach Raina Easton poses a far greater danger to Mal's peace of mind! This is a wonderful book that pulls at the tension between Mal's almost obsessive need to ensure the safety of the team, and Raina's refusal to allow her life to be dictated by her fears. Mal and Raina's vulnerabilities come from traumatic events in their past, and Lawless in Leather has some beautifully intimate moments as the two main characters struggle to manage their fears without trying to change the other person.

This book is a fitting reward for fans of the series, and I can't wait to see what Melanie has in store for us next!
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Tribal Law
Miscreants & Magick

by Shannon Curtis

Kat says: Tribal Law is what happens when people don't organise romance reader events. Last year in July, some Sydneysiders decided to have a romance get-together, and author Shannon Curtis used it to crowd-source the plot of a novel. This event was so much fun, and we came up with some wacky ideas. Sadly, my request for a hero who excels at shrimp farming remains unfulfilled, but I did get a heroine named Vassiliki (in honour of my librarian and now very good friend)!

I'm still reading Tribal Law , and it's a lot of fun. The first scene, in which the alpha of a local werewolf pack accidentally dies during a dental procedure being conducted by our hero, Ryder (yes! A dentist! Named Ryder!), is so funny (and strangely hot - I thought it might have been an m/m scene!). Lawyer Vassiliki ends up having to defend him in court when he is accused of murder.

The proceeds for this book will be donated to the Australian Romance Readers Association, so when you buy this book, you'll be helping fellow readers, too!
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Out Of Place
Face the Music Series : Book 2

by Shona Husk 

Kat says: I want to hug the hero of this book. The second book in Shona Husk's Face the Music series features front man Ed, who is suffering from second-album syndrome. He's too much of a perfectionist, and the pressure to live up to the promise of the band's first album is doing his head in, so when he meets single mum Olivia, it's all a bit right-girl-wrong-time.

Most of the new adult romances I've read - and I'm talking about one-book romances with a happy ending - are set overseas, so reading Out Of Place , set in Western Australia, has been so wonderful. The characters feel familiar - they both still live with their parents - and everyone just has that laid back quality that Aussies excel at.

I'm so excited about this series, and if you're a very impatient reader like me, you'll be glad to know that all the books in the series should be out by the end of the year!
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All Played Out
A Rusk University Novel

by Cora Carmack
All Played Out : A Rusk University Novel - Cora Carmack In the third book in New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cora Carmack's Rusk University series, a good girl is about to find out what happens when she creates the ultimate college bucket list and she sets her sights on a jock.

First person in her family to go to college? CHECK.

Straight A's? CHECK ...
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Way of the Warrior
by Suzanne Brockmann, Julie Ann Walker, Catherine Mann, Tina Wainscott, Anne Elizabeth, M.L. Buchman, Kate SeRine, Lea Griffith

Kat says: Eight of your favourite military romance authors, including our fabulous author of the month, Suzanne Brockmann, got together to create Way of the Warrior as part of the Wounded Warrior Project. Proceeds from the book will help fund programs and services for veterans.

The anthology features stories by Suzanne Brockmann, Julie Ann Walker, Catherine Mann, Tina Wainscott, Anne Elizabeth, ML Buchman, Kate SeRine, and Lea Griffith . Suzanne gives us some tidbits from her story in this anthology - scroll down to the Nine Naughty Questions at the end of this month's Romance Buzz for details!
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Consumed by Fire
by Anne Stuart
Consumed by Fire : Fire - Anne Stuart Evangeline Morrissey remembers the last time she saw her husband: it was during their honeymoon, right before he stole her elderly aunt's earrings and abandoned her. Now, five years later, the enigmatic man who'd broken her heart and destroyed her trust is back. But she's not the same naive young woman who fell for him so easily.

Marrying Evangeline and letting her think he was nothing but a common thief had been James Bishop's plan all along. As an assassin for the Committee, a covert agency dedicated to stamping out international crime, he had no business even thinking about marriage ...
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Under the Lights
Boys of Fall Novel : Book 1

by Shannon Stacey
Under the Lights : Boys of Fall Novel : Book 1  - Shannon Stacey They were the golden boys of fall: Stewart Mills High School's legendary championship winning football team. Fourteen years later, they're back to relive their glory, save the team-and find themselves again ...
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A Midsummer Night's Romp
A Matchmaker in Wonderland Romance

by Katie MacAlister
A Midsummer Night's Romp : A Matchmaker in Wonderland Romance - Katie MacAlister Lorina Liddel is terrified of embarrassing herself on national TV as the face of Dig Britain!, a new archeological reality show. Lorina would much rather keep her head down and her hands in the dirt underneath Ainslie Castle, but ...
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Love in the Time of Scandal
by Caroline Linden

Kat says: The third book in the Scandalous series features a previous villain, so author Caroline Linden needed to make the hero, Benedict, Lord Atherton, redeemable in my eyes. Fortunately, Benedict is just so misunderstood, my dear readers. And who better to discover the tortured past that has made him the man he is, than his nemesis (of sorts) Penelope Weston.

Fans of the series will recall that Benedict had been betrothed to Penelope's sister Abigail, until Abigail snuck off with Benedict's former best friend. (It's best to start this series at book 1 , but it's not essential.) This book doesn't gloss over Penelope's disdain for Benedict, so their romance is all the more thrilling because of all the emotional hoops they have to jump through to be together. Benedict's kryptonite is his father, and Penelope's ability to stand up to the earl within the bounds of proper behaviour is just glorious.
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A Match for Marcus Cynster
by Stephanie Laurens
A Match for Marcus Cynster - Stephanie Laurens No. 1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens unveils a dramatic new tale of desire and devotion in her beloved Cynster series Marcus Cynster is waiting for Fate to come calling.

He knows his destiny lies near his home in Scotland, but what will it be?
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50 Ways to Ruin a Rake
Not Quite Ladies Series : Book 1

by Jade Lee
50 Ways to Ruin a Rake : Not Quite Ladies Series : Book 1 - Jade Lee Mellie Smithson has a plan....

Mellie Smithson is trapped in the country with no suitors and no prospects on the horizon except, perhaps, the exasperating-although admittedly handsome-guest of her father. Unwilling to settle, Mellie will do anything to escape to London ...
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Dearest Rogue
Maiden Lane Series
by Elizabeth Hoyt
Dearest Rogue : Maiden Lane Series - Elizabeth Hoyt HE CAN GUARD HER

Lady Phoebe Batten is pretty, vivacious, and yearning for a social life befitting the sister of a powerful duke. But because she is almost completely blind, her overprotective brother insists that she have an armed bodyguard by her side at all times-the very irritating Captain Trevillion.
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Midnight's Kiss
Elder Races

by Thea Harrison
Midnight's Kiss : Elder Races - Thea Harrison In the latest Novel of the Elder Races, two souls who have long buried their passions are about to be consumed...

Ever since their scorching affair ended years ago, Julian, the Nightkind King, and Melisande, daughter of the Light Fae Queen, have tried to put the past behind them-and distance between them. But when a war breaks out between Julian and Justine, a powerful Vampyre of the Nightkind council, they find themselves thrown together under treacherous circumstances ...
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Releasing the Shifter
Solitary Shifters Series : Book 3

by Summer Devon
Releasing the Shifter : Solitary Shifters Series : Book 3 - Summer Devon To save his love he must face his monster and-worse-be nice to people.

Montag is a monster. He doesn't know what sort of creature he would turn into if he ever let himself shift ...
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Recast Series : Book 4

by Yolanda Sfetsos
Dash : Recast Series : Book 4 - Yolanda Sfetsos She escaped the arena of death, but trusting him might be the death of her.

Taylor may be the Clash Arena's most dominant-and only-female gladiator, but today she just can't catch a break ...
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The Joy Valentine Mysteries : Book 1

by Amy Andrews
Limbo : The Joy Valentine Mysteries : Book 1 - Amy Andrews Six Feet Under meets Stephanie Plum in Amy Andrews' fresh, funny, sexy urban-family noir about a country singer who almost made it, a private investigator who's seen too much and a mother who will cross all barriers to save her child.

When ex hillbilly-punk rocker turned cadaver make-up artist Joy Valentine is visited by the ghost of a high-profile murder victim begging for Joy's help to find her kidnapped baby girl ...
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A Seal's Pleasure / The Hottest Ticket in Town
by Tawny Weber, Kimberly Van Meter
A Seal's Pleasure / The Hottest Ticket in Town - Tawny Weber A SEAL's Pleasure - Tawny Webber

Subject: Navy SEAL Gabriel Thorne

Mission: Initiate Operation Romance and prove that one night isn't enough!

Explosives expert and Navy SEAL Gabriel 'Romeo' Thorne makes his living tempting fate. Pushing the limits. So far, he's never lost - especially when it comes to  ...
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The Sheikh's Secret Babies - Lynne Graham
Princess's Secret Baby : The Chatsfield - Carol Marinelli
A Royal Scandal : Passion, Purity and the Prince / Prince of Scandal / Defying Her Desert Duty - Annie West
Captive of Kadar : Desert Brothers - Trish Morey
The Falls
by Cathryn Hein
The Falls : Pre-order Your Signed Copy!* - Cathryn Hein Will losing the home she loves mean finding the place she belongs?

For as long as she can remember, Teagan Bliss has wanted to manage her family's property. She's invested everything in the farm, knowing that when her parents retire she'll be ready to take the reins. But when a family betrayal leaves her reeling, Teagan is forced to rethink ...
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Only We Know
by Victoria Purman
Only We Know - Victoria Purman A rugged island. Two people. Family secrets.

When Calla Maloney steps on the boat to Kangaroo Island, she's filled with dread. Part of it is simple seasickness but the other part ...
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Down Outback Roads
by Alissa Callen
Down Outback Roads - Alissa Callen Down Outback Roads is an enthralling rural love story, about family, community and allowing yourself a second chance.

Kree Garrett's younger brother Seth is all the ...
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Paradise City
by CJ Duggan
Paradise City : Paradise City - C. J. Duggan Kat says: Readers who love romantic series with cliffhanger endings need to check out CJ Duggan's new book, Paradise City. The characters are on the cusp between young adult and new adult, and there's just a really retro feel to the story. But be warned: you'll be counting the days until book 2 comes out!

Blurb: There's bound to be trouble in Paradise . . .

When her parents decide a change will be good for her, seventeen-year-old Lexie Atkinson never expected they'd send her all the way to Paradise City.
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The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine
by Krissy Kneen
The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine - Krissy Kneen Kat says: Fair warning: I haven't read this book, so I have no idea what to expect from Krissy Kneen's new release. But seriously: how could I go past that title?! Krissy is one of my favourite authors of sexy (and she would argue pornographic) books. I loved her memoir, Affection, and I was both intrigued and scandalised by her anthology, Triptych . If you love edgy and well-crafted erotic writing that isn't afraid to break taboos, you'll want to try Krissy's work.
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Click here to check out our Bestsellers of the Week

A huge congratulations to all the finalists for the RITA awards. If you haven't heard of the RITAs, it's the romance genre's equivalent to the Oscars. Three Australian authors made the finals this year: Sarah Mayberry, Bec McMaster, and Beck Nicholas. The winners are announced in July, and I'm so excited for them!

In the meantime, I picked out 8 titles from the RITA shortlist that I'm barracking for. If you're looking to try new authors or subgenres, why not give these books a try?

A Bollywood Affair - Sonali Dev
Fake : MIRA Regular S. - Beck Nicholas
Her Kind Of Trouble - Sarah Mayberry
Forged by Desire : London Steampunk - Bec McMaster
My Lady, My Lord - Katharine Ashe
Concealed in Death : In Death - J. D. Robb
Romancing the Duke : Castles Ever After - Tessa Dare
Fool Me Twice - Meredith Duran
I Want It That Way
by Ann Aguirre
I Want It That Way - Ann Aguirre Nadia Conrad has big dreams, and she's determined to make them come true. But between maintaining her college scholarship and working at the local day care to support herself, dating's the last thing on her mind. Then she moves into a new apartment and meets the taciturn yet irresistible guy in 1B ...
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Ace's Wild
by Sarah McCarty
Ace's Wild - Sarah McCarty When you gamble with desire, be prepared to risk everything...

Unlike the rest of the Hell's Eight brotherhood, Ace Parker's home isn't on the range. This restless cowboy craves the hustle of Simple, Texas, a lawless town where he can sate ...
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Captive Prince : Book One of the Captive Prince Trilogy - C.S. Pacat
The Spy Who Tamed Me - Kelly Hunter
A Scoundrel by Moonlight : The Sons of Sin Series - Anna Campbell
This Gun for Hire - Jo Goodman

Click here for more details or to order Captive Prince

Burnt - Karly Lane
Crystal Creek - Charlotte Nash
The Billionaire's Bridal Bargain - Lynne Graham
Carrying the Greek's Heir : One Night With Consequences - Sharon Kendrick
Prince's Gambit : Captive Prince Trilogy - C.S. Pacat
The Spring Bride - Anne Gracie
Northern Heat - Helene Young
Shards of Hope : A Psy-Changeling Novel - Nalini Singh
You Had Me at Hello : What happens when the one that got away comes back? - Mhairi McFarlane
In the Warrior's Bed - Mary Wine
Live Wire : Elite Ops Series : Book 6 - Lora Leigh
Sunrise with a Notorious Lord : Lords of Vice - Alexandra Hawkins
Suzanne BrockmannThis month, we put bestselling author Suzanne Brockmann in the hot seat as she takes on our Nine Naughty Questions. Suzanne's Troubleshooters series was one of my first forays into romantic suspense series, and I gobbled them up like kilojoule-free chocolates! Seriously, these books are reader crack, and Suzanne wrote one of my favourite secondary couples, Jules and Robin. (They get their own novella, too, but their romance develops through several books, and it was delicious, heartbreaking and so thrilling to read.) This month, she has a story out in the Way of the Warrior anthology, featuring characters from her books, so make sure you check that out.

You can find out more about Suzanne and her books by visiting her website at suzannebrockmann.com, liking her on Facebook, or following her on Twitter.

1. Headless washboard abs, a torrid embrace, the sprawling homestead, an elegantly dressed décolletage, or the vaguely kinky object against a dark background - what's your favourite type of romance cover and why?

I'm always looking for eye-catching and different when it comes to cover art. So as soon as something hits and immediately trends, I'm already WAY over it.

With that said, I don't really care what's on the cover of a book, as long as one of my favourite authors' names is there, in big letters. I'm an "auto-buy" reader, although occasionally I look at the cover, wince, and mutter, "Oh, what a shame!"

My favourite covers for my own books include two really awesome early drafts (Both Hot Target and Night Sky, my YA, were replaced by covers that I absolutely hated - why?! Why!?!), two covers that recently appeared on international editions of my books (the Italian edition of Prince Joe and the Brazilian Born to Darkness) and a cover that a graphic designer friend created for Free Fall, a recent short story set in my Troubleshooters world. :-)

2. What is the secret life of a romance writer? What goes on between you and your keyboard (or quill) behind closed doors?

It's far less glamorous than imagined! Being a writer is all about defying distractions and getting your butt in the chair and producing the word count.

I'm a plotter. I outline extensively, so (in theory) I know exactly where the story is going before I sit down to write.

But of course, life is filled with delicious distractions . . .

3. At the heart of a romantic story is the way in which the main characters reveal their true natures to each other. How much of yourself do you put into your characters, The Unsung Heroand have their stories been affected by your personal experiences?

I assume everyone is intelligent, and that all women (and some men!) are drawn to smart, funny men.

One of my biggest distractions (see answer to question #3) is my wide-eyed disbelief at how idiotic some of my fellow human beings can be.

Small-mindedness and hatred confound me. Racism, homophobia, gender inequality . . . and the extremely petty human need to assume superiority, based on ridiculous differences, when in truth we're all far more alike than we are different.

So yeah, I can spend a lot of time on Twitter , on some rant, when in truth it's been revealed that people who read fiction are more empathic. Reading fiction grows one's empathy-one's ability to imagine what it's like to walk a mile in someone else's seemingly different shoes! (Makes sense, right?!) Because of that, I desperately try to convince myself that my time is far better spent writing another novel!

4. I'm interested in how you differentiate between romance fiction, erotica and porn. Are romance readers getting naughtier?

Labels always confound me. My idea of a sweet romance novel can be another person's porn!

Every now and then the mainstream world "discovers" romance novels and it gets extremely noisy for a while! But the bottom line is that romance is a huge genre, spanning the spectrum from sweet to extra-spicy, with something for almost everyone.

Way of the Warrior5. Please tell us about your latest novel! Did you have a secret alternative title while you were writing it?

I've actually got a novella coming out as part of an anthology of eight military romance stories called Way of the Warrior. It releases on May 5th, and includes stories by Julie Ann Walker, Catherine Mann, Anne Elizabeth, Tina Wainscott, ML Buchman, Kate SeRine, and Lea Griffith.

It's a great chance for readers to sample other military romance authors, AND all proceeds from this anthology from both publisher and authors will go directly to The Wounded Warrior Project, an organization that supports military veterans.

My story is called Home Fire Inferno (Burn, Baby, Burn!), and it features Navy SEALs Izzy Zanella, Dan Gillman, and Jay Lopez from my Troubleshooters series (and let's readers know what's going on back home with their significant others! Dan's wife Jenn is extremely pregnant. Hint! Hint!) I've also introduced readers to the SEAL who's nicknamed HoboMofo-he's been mentioned in the TS series before, but now readers will get to meet him face-to-face!

The story takes place just a few weeks after Free Fall , my latest TS short (which is available in all e-formats and in audio-short). And because my story-plotting-brain works best in threes (or more!), I'm going to be writing another short/novella called Ready to Roll that takes place a few weeks after Home Fire Inferno.

There was no secret alternate title for Home Fire Inferno, but I did hear The Trammps singing Burn, baby, burn! every time I sat down to write or edit!

6. What's the most memorable reaction you've received after a friend or family member read one of your books?

For me, the most memorable will always be when I asked my mother to read my very first romance novel. I was nervous about her reaction to the steamy love scenes! But she was so cool about it-to this day, she remains my ultimate early draft reader.

7. Romance writers are sometimes denigrated and asked when they'll write 'real' books - what do you tell the haters?

I don't have time for haters. I've learned, through the years, to immediately be able to identify wilful ignorance. Plain ol' ordinary ignorance can be countered with education, and I'm always happy to engage and inform. But when it's wilful...? Nope. No time for that!

The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy8. Romance readers love discovering new authors. Please tell us about five books you recently read and loved to bits.

My current favourite author is Alexis Hall, who writes romance in a variety of genres. And while I loved his steam-punk Prosperity (for so many reasons!), his latest contemporary novella, Waiting for the Flood, might be my favourite of his so far. (I also highly recommend Glitterland , which was my very favourite romance novel of 2013.) And yes, I just used favourite (with the UK/AU spelling!) three times in three sentences!

I'm also a big fan of Farrah Rochon. She writes contemporary category romance and I recently read a review where someone lauded her characters for acting like adults, and I thought "Yes!" This is one of the (many!) reasons I love her books. I'll Catch You just got nominated for a RITA, and while I haven't yet read it (it's on my TBR pile while I'm crunched by deadlines), I can say with certainty that I'm going to love it.  She's consistently that good.

Sarina Bowen's Understatement of the Year was terrific. She was a new author to me, and while this really great NA book works well as a stand-alone, it's part of a series. Needless to say, the earlier books are waiting for me on my e-reader!

Julia Quinn's The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy was lovely. She's one of my long-time auto-buy authors. (Since I write contemporary romantic suspense, I often flee to the Regency era for a truly complete escape!)

Carolina Man by Virginia Kantra. Wow, I loved this book-I love the entire Dare Island series, but this one has a former-military hero and a heart-breakingly sweet story about his return to civilian life. (And I just realized that her latest, Carolina Blues , is available. Pardon me while I go download it RIGHT NOW!)

9. Please tell us your favourite scene from your latest book, and why it's particularly delicious!

Much of Home Fire Inferno is told through Navy SEAL Izzy Zanella's irreverent point of view. Izzy's appeared in a number of books in the Troubleshooters series (Into the Storm, Into the Fire, Hot Pursuit, Breaking the Rules), and he's also a major player in Free Fall, my most recent TS short.

In Home Fire Inferno, Izzy gets to interact a bit with the SEAL Team's Senior Chief Stan Wolchonok. That's always fun.

But I also write from Navy SEAL Jay Lopez's POV in this story. He's back home in California during the story's timeline, still healing from an injury to his knee that he incurred in Free Fall. In Home Fire Inferno, Lopez meets a pretty young fifth grade teacher who gets him thinking about candlelit dinners . . . (Spoiler: Don't worry! Home Fire Inferno isn't Lopez's story. He deserves a full-length book, still to come!)
Suzanne, thank you for playing.
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