A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

Falling for Max by Shannon Stacey

on November 15, 2014

What tickled my fancy: Sweet beta hero.

What ticked me off: STAY IN YOUR OWN DAMN BOOK!

Who might like it: fans of beta heroes and/or matchmaker stories.


“I’m not hooking up with Max. I like him too much for that.”

“That makes no sense to me.”

“When it comes to fairy-tale romances, he’s Disney and I’m Grimm.”

This is the 267th 9th book in the Kowalski series, and there’s a heavy weight of history to it. I got a little bored five books back, to be honest, and having frequent reminiscences about every single previous character’s love life got so dull I was tempted to quit the book. I kept reading for Max.

I started out by armchair diagnosing Max with a mild case of RHA — Romance Hero’s Aspergers. (Not to be confused with Romance Hero’s Alcoholism.) It’s a spot on the autism spectrum where there are many common symptoms of Aspergers syndrome, yet oddly enough, none of the associated issues that might make a person seem less sexy.

As I read on though, I decided that Max is definitely within the realm of believable for someone on the spectrum. He’s blessed with a lot of self-awareness and has worked out many coping mechanisms, so problems like anxiety don’t get beyond his ability to deal with. It’s a thoughtful and appealing characterization. Max is generally accepting of himself, and a reasonably content guy: he’s got a job that makes use of his particular talents, and he’s found a social in by making his home the local gathering place to watch sports events. But he wants a wife and a family.

“I don’t have a preference as far as hair and eye color. Or height or weight.” He paused, and gave a little shrug. “I’m just looking for a woman who’ll love me enough to marry me and risk having little odd duck kids. That’s pretty much my list.”

I hate portrayals of unfeeling, robotic aspies with the fire of a thousand suns, so I appreciated Max’s warmth and kindness. He may not be very socially adept, but it’s not for lacking of trying, or lack of caring. And he’s got a good sense of humor!

Unlike many reviewers, I also like Tori. Her aversion to relationships because of her toxic parents is plausible to me, and I appreciated that she gets proactive about dealing with them, with a little nudging from a friend.  And it’s refreshing that some of the drawbacks of small town life are realistically depicted.

He really wished Whitford had a movie theater, though. Or a bowling alley or even a mini-golf course. Sitting across from a woman with nothing to do but hold a conversation was a lot of pressure.

A small town romance in which small town life isn’t perfect — now there’s a romance unicorn.

Final thoughts: There are way too many people in this book for someone like Max. But I fell for his romance anyway.

12 responses to “Falling for Max by Shannon Stacey

  1. Miss Bates says:

    You known I’ve read a few of these and though I liked the central romance, the plethora of characters from other books really killed it for me. So thanks, I love vindication!

  2. kaetrin says:

    Nice to know that the portrayal of Max rings true. I did have to laugh at the strikethrough. 🙂 I recently listened to…book 6? 7? Anyway, I have the others (including this one) but I MUST READ IN ORDER and I’m still catching up.

  3. I liked Tori too. My husband and I are both children of divorce and both of us have had to deal with the legacy of that in one way or another. Of the two of us, his experience is the one that most closely mimics Tori’s. He even wrecked a perfectly good 2 year college relationship because of it. Thankfully by the time we met, he had sorted through most of it. Back when we watched Buffy, he surprised himself with how strongly he identified with the portrayal of Xander in “Hell’s Bells”.

    I think it is important to have characters like Tori, whose fears while maybe not clinical do affect their life choices in big and small ways.

    • willaful says:

      My parents divorced when I was so young, it had no particular effect on me, but I’ve known a number of traumatized people who were very set against marriage and/or children from an early age, and they never changed their minds. I’m glad your husband was able to sort it out. 🙂

  4. Kathy says:

    I enjoyed this review very much, and it sounds like a book I’d like to read despite never having read any of the 266 previous Kowalski books. 🙂 Max sounds like a character I could love. I’ve read a few books in which the main character has Asperger’s/autism. Have you read 600 Hours of Edward or Edward Adrift by Craig Lancaster? Neither is a romance, and though I liked both the first (‘600 Hours’) is my favorite of the two. Especially Edward’s file drawer collection of unsent letters he uses to work through some of his issues. The ones to his father are funny and poignant at the same time. I also really liked The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. I’d love to know what you thought of them. Off to buy Falling For Max.

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