Friday, February 19, 2016

(Review) Falling for Max by Shannon Stacey

Title: Falling for Max
Author: Shannon Stacey
Series: Kowalski Family, #9
Published: July 2014 (Carina Press)
Rating: Staying in Tonight
Format: Paperback, borrowed from the library
Summary: 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.
So, I was all set to use my spare time tonight to sit down and write my review for Level Up, which I read a few days ago and adored. But I plopped down with my Chick-fil-A in one hand and this book in the other, and once I started, I couldn't stop until I'd reached the end. So now I need to tell you about my feelings for THIS book. And be prepared, because I have a lot of them. (But be on the lookout for my other review, too, soon. Because Level Up was awesomesauce.)

Three things I love but can almost never find all together in one package: contemporary setting, a humorous tone, and slow burn.

And guess what?

Falling for Max has ALL THREE OF THEM. Plus awesome characters. And I'm not just talking about the main two, either.

(This review is just basically going to be me gushing. In case you hadn't gotten that vibe already.)

Honestly, though, I already knew I loved Shannon Stacey. But it had been quite a while since I'd read one of her books, and I'm a lot pickier about my romance nowadays. It takes more to hook me and keep me invested in the characters and the romance, much less actually impress me. But that is exactly what Stacey did.

I loved Max. I loved Tori. I loved Tori's best friend, Hailey, who was the town librarian and kept Tori supplied with books. You may think that this is extraneous information, but a) it actually wound up being important and b) she was just awesome. I really enjoyed reading about their friendship, from the book drops to the dialog to the supportive friend moments. Give me a solid lady friendship, and you're already one step further into my good graces. Also, Hailey said this, which has no relevance except for the fact that I love it and want to share it:
Bad things happen to people who write in library books, Tori. Very bad things.
BUT I WILL MOVE ALONG. To, you know, the romance. Or we might be here all night.

Falling for Max is basically a super amazing reverse Pygmalion / My Fair Lady / The Ugly Truth. The heroine offering to help "make over" the hero? HELLO, I'M THERE. I was very excited about this premise, and I love how it worked into the story. Tori didn't go overboard with the advice, never suggested that Max had anything to be ashamed of. She was more of a coach and a cheerleader, all wrapped up into one. Over the course of working together (which involved a fake date at one point, and let me tell you, if I have a single trope weakness, it's Fake Dating), Tori and Max bonded and quickly became friends. Of course, it didn't stop there, but they were friends for a very long time while the chemistry sizzled steadily in the background. But while my toes were curling in anticipation at every longing stare, it wouldn't have made sense for them to get together in the beginning. So they didn't. And I was a happy camper, just waiting for them to get around to figuring things out and then deciding whether or not to do anything about it. And in the mean time, I enjoyed the heck out of their friendship. They made me giggle and swoon, and I genuinely enjoyed every time they interacted.

As for the characters themselves, I was definitely fan.

Max was an introvert and socially awkward, but Stacey did an excellent job of writing him. A lot of times when authors attempt to write socially awkward or anxious characters, the characters wind up feeling like cartoonish stereotypes. But this wasn't the case with Max at all. He felt real. I understood his perspective. And he wasn't All Awkward, All the Time. He was just, in his own words, a bit of an odd duck, and I mean that in the most loving way possible. (And trust me, that's a lot of love.)
Max was very familiar with people saying logical in a tone that suggested the word had a negative connotation to it.

And Tori! Tori was a graphic designer slash waitress, and she was a delight, honestly. She was friendly and outgoing, and unlike Max, she was very engaged with the community. She had major hang-ups about love and marriage, due to her parents' nasty divorce (which weren't magically swept aside by The Power of Love, either), which she was honest and up-front about from the beginning of the story.

You know what else is great?


There was no Big Misunderstanding in this book, because the characters were honest with each other. They were up front about things. Was everything hunky dory? No. Did they fight? Yes. Did I believe they would make it in the long run? Without a doubt.

I have only one complaint about the entire book, and that is the ending. It was rather abrupt, and I wish it would have been drawn out a bit longer. It just felt a little jarring. And then there's the fact that it ended, period, which let's face it, was pretty sad. But I do happen to have two other Shannon Stacey books checked out from the library right now, so there's a silver lining.

I wasn't super impressed by the cover or title of Falling for Max, but please don't be fooled by either! This is honestly one of the best contemporary romances I've read in a long time. I laughed out loud on multiple occasions. I saved tons of quotes. And I fell hard for the characters and the romance. (And did I mention that it was slow burn? Because it was slow burn. And this fact alone makes me want to get up and do a happydance.) This book reminded me why I automatically smile when I see Shannon Stacey's name on a book cover, and I definitely recommend it.
On the first day of each month, Max Crawford made it a habit to compile a list of everything he wanted or needed to accomplish that month. Without a list, he tended to immerse himself in work and then wonder why he was out of mouthwash and the car payment was overdue.

As the calendar ticked over to October, he catalogued which projects he was working on and their due dates. He noted there were two birthdays on his calendar, which meant shopping for and sending gifts to his mother and niece. The furnace needed its annual checkup. And he wanted to find a wife.

"I have feelings. I intend to kill them with ice cream."

“Did I tell you how nice you look tonight? Definitely the good nice.”
“You didn't have to.” He took her hand and started toward the door.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“I see the way you look at me in this sweater.” He stopped walking. “Maybe I should leave it in the car. This is a family restaurant.”
She slapped his arm and nudged him forward. “I've created a monster.”

1 comment:

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