Susan Mallery, . . Pocket, $6.99 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-7434-0596-6

Temptation Island meets Oprah in veteran author Mallery's (Sweet Success) contemporary romantic romp. When two psychologists with opposing ideas on what makes relationships work agree to a $1-million contest to pair 40 couples, they get more than their hearts bargained for. Jonathan Kirby, who believes sexual heat forges a strong couple, and Taylor McGuire, who claims similar ideas do the trick, were each other's first love 17 years ago, and the conflict and intimacy sparked by coaching the contest couples through a month of living together leads them to reexamine their past decisions and consider the possibility of building a future together. Mallery intertwines the doctors' rekindled relationship with those of three couples in the contest, creating a colorful tapestry of sympathetic characters who at times pull too much attention away from the main show. Marnie, a millionaire beautician with state of Texas decals on her fingernails, is one of the most endearing as she seeks friendship and more with a socially inept programmer whose past dating flops include accidentally poisoning a girl's cat with a gift plant. Although the novel's climax is rushed, this sweet story will delight as it provides food for thought. (Dec.)