Thursday, January 29, 2015

Falling for Max - Shannon Stacey (Carina Press - Aug 2014)

Series: Kowalski (Book 9)

Max Crawford has reached the point in life where he's starting to think about settling down. Unfortunately, he's always been a little awkward when it comes to social interactions, and working from home doesn't help. He spends so much time alone, painting beautiful, historically accurate model trains that half of Whitford has begun to joke that he may be a serial killer. Not exactly prime husband material.

Tori Burns has found happiness in Maine, thanks in large part to her shifts at the Trailside Diner. She likes the work, and she loves the local gossip. When shy, geeky Max Crawford becomes a regular, she's intrigued. When she finds out he's in the market for a wife, she's fascinated...and determined to help.

Molding Max into every woman's dream turns out to be much easier than expected. But has Tori's plan worked a little too well? As she turns his comfortable life all sorts of upside down, she'll have to find a way to show just how she's fallen for him...the real him.

Really fun conclusion to the Kowalski series. I have been waiting for Max's story and it did not disappoint me at all. He has been an intriguing character from the beginning, with the mystery of what he does for a living and why he has a security system for his basement. He doesn't really socialize, except for having "the guys" over on Sundays to watch sports on his big screen television. But after seven years of living in Whitford, he realizes that he's a bit lonely and that maybe it's time to do something about it. The problem is, he's not sure what. He's okay talking to guys about sports, but talking to women is really hard. So he heads to the local diner, just to test the waters.

Tori has settled in to Whitford quite nicely. She has her graphic arts business she runs from home, and her part time hours at the diner for fun. She loves talking to people and hearing all about what is happening around town. She's intrigued by Max when he starts coming into the diner. He may be shy and geeky, but he's also pretty sexy. And when she witnesses his awkward attempt to talk to a woman there, she takes pity on him. He's in the market for a relationship that could lead to marriage, and that's the last thing she wants, but she's more than willing to dispense aid and advice.  I really liked the way that she didn't try to change who he was, just to help him get more comfortable around other people.

I just loved Max. He has a tendency to take things that are said pretty literally, and he is sometimes painfully honest. He's quite happy to accept Tori's help with her "practice dates" and flash cards and her willingness to work with who he is. He's a nice guy at heart who tries very hard not to do anything that would cause someone else pain. I loved seeing him take all of Tori's advice and actually apply it successfully on the couple of dates he went on. But a funny thing happened on his way to dating success - he started to fall for the teacher.

I loved the way that Tori saw past Max's awkwardness to the nice guy that he is. She can see that he's going to need a special kind of woman who can deal with both his intensity and his shyness. Tori doesn't see herself as being that woman, because he is looking for a wife and she refuses to consider marrying. Her parents divorced after twenty-five years of marriage and have turned into nasty people who have no trouble putting her in the middle of their battles. She has a fear of falling in love with a man and then turning around and becoming like her mother, so she won't allow herself the chance.

Because Tori is helping Max with his dating issues, they start out by becoming friends. Max is comfortable with Tori and has no trouble talking to her. Some of their conversations are pretty funny, when he takes something that she says literally and then has to adjust his thinking to get what she meant. Tori enjoys teasing him, but she's never mean about it. It was fun to see their relationship develop without either of them being aware that that's what was happening. Everyone else could see what was happening before they did. Though Tori panics when Max finally tells her how he feels, he has the patience to understand and wait for her. The ending was sweet and perfect for the two of them.

I loved seeing the interest that everyone had in getting to know Max and helping him along the way. No one had really believed the serial killer thing, but everyone was interested in knowing more about him. The more he became part of the community, the easier he found it to talk to people. I enjoyed seeing Rose give him advice and even tease him a little about the serial killer rep. Even Josh got into the act when Max and Tori were having their problems.

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