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Shannon Stacey – Falling For Max

Book Cover

Modelling trains, modelling parents.

Publisher: Carina Press (Harlequin)
Pages: 185
Type: Fiction
Age: Adult
ISBN: 978-1-426-89877-8
First Published: 29th July 2014
Date Reviewed: 20th April 2015
Rating: 2.5/5

Max, the basement-dwelling potential serial killer, wants a wife. In order to find one he’s going to need to integrate himself into the community. Freelancer and waitress Tori doesn’t want a boyfriend – her parents’ awful relationship has seen to that – but she’ll play matchmaker and help Max prepare himself for the world of dating.

The final book in the Kowalski series, Falling For Max is the second non-Kowalski and a bit of a dismal end.

The main issue is Tori’s attitude to Max and the writing of him. Tori treats Max like a child. She’s patronising, dons kid gloves, and how she falls in love in this mode of mothering is hard to understand. She makes overblown assumptions about Max such as that he would be bored talking to a girl about her interests – were that so, that’s surely a sign Max shouldn’t date the girl again rather than a sign he’s no good at dating. Now it seemed to me as though Max could have Asperger’s but as it’s never said, has never seemed that way in previous books, and people call him an ‘odd duck’ which he doesn’t like and is rather offensive especially if he did have AS, I’m assuming Stacey wasn’t writing him as such.

Tori is obsessed with Max’s logical reasoning and literal understanding. It’s written as childlike, continued too long. When he’s not with Tori, Max comes across as competent, just lacking in experience; with Tori you’d think he needed to go back to school.

This begs a question: why does Max like Tori? In real life he wouldn’t. He would tell her to find another project or simply stick to being friends. There is no chemistry between them and even the sex scenes lack any spark.

There are various other smaller issues such as Rose’s demands – real life Max would’ve left when she reached offensive levels – and Hannibal Lector masks being appropriate at a child-friendly party when Black Widow is not. There is the obsession with ‘decaf’ – it can never simply be ‘coffee’ and it always must be noted that Max won’t drink it after five (this is a narration issue).

But something that does really, really really, work in this book is Stacey’s handling of Tori’s parents’ divorce. Tori, already an adult by the time the hideously ill-matched pair separate, is very much affected by it. Stacey shows how the parents’ constant slagging matches, the way they’ve wished each other dead, has had a major impact on Tori’s own life, on her relationships. The way each parent moans to Tori about the other and effectively asks her to choose a side is handled with care – as is the conclusion, the way Tori takes back control, finally in a situation where she doesn’t want their relationship blackening her own. She changes from allowing her phone to reach voicemail to taking a firm stand and whilst this may seem trivial to some and, of course, short in regards to time (as it must be due to the book’s word count) it is done with aplomb. Stacey’s careful handling could well inspire others.

Falling For Max shows that it is indeed time to finish with the Kowalskis and it does end the series on a dull note but there is much to like about Stacey’s thoughtfulness. The romance cannot be recommended but the domestic issues can.

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