Falling for Max
Carina / July 29, 2014 / $4.99, digital / $7.99, print
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.
It is not uncommon to read a book about shy, socially awkward heroines. We love watching them blossom under the attention of the right person. Heroes for the most part are a different breed. Their vulnerabilities are hidden layers deep beneath assertive, high-handed alpha characteristics and bits of swagger. Over the book the heroine has to slowly peel back the layers, coaxing the hero into letting his guard down and admit to any type of weakness. While it is fascinating to watch this, there is a sense of uniqueness when a hero is candid and open up front. Max in Shannon Stacey's Falling for Max is one such hero.
We all know how it feels to be the different one in the group– like the short one, when everyone else is tall, or the plain one when everyone else is strikingly gorgeous. As the shy introvert in the family of extroverts, Max grew up feeling different and at times lacking. His parents’ worry and concern only made him more self-conscious and aware of his failings. And he was well aware that his siblings thought he was a bit of an odd duck, especially after he took up painting trains. Max didn’t worry about being loved – he knew he was, but he wanted to fit in – to have something to talk about with his father and brothers, and through the love of sports he found the commonality that bridged their difference.
Talking sports is a great conversational icebreaker. Not only did it serve him well with his family but also in Whitford, Main. Max place has become the unofficial sports bar of Whitford.
That is why Max is always hopeful that the women he meets are sports fanatics – so he will have something say. But he doesn’t have much luck with Tori Burns in this regard:
“So what brings you in today?”
“I was hungry.”
If there was any hint of sarcasm or hostility in his tone, she would have taken the hint and walked away. But he had simply answered the question asked of him and she was nosy.
“You came to the right place.”
“It made more sense than going to the post office.” She laughed and his expression relaxed a little. “It’s early yet, but the patriots are looking pretty good this year.”
“I’ve heard that rumor, but I don’t really follow sports at all.”
“Oh.” He actually looked disappointed . . .
“With sports off the table,” he said, “I don’t suppose you’re into trains?”
“Trains?” He wasn’t surprised when she gave him an odd look. He got those a lot.
“I don’t really know a lot about trains.”
Of course she didn’t. Not many people did. “It’s a nice day today.”
“Wow, we regressed to the weather pretty quickly.”
But even when it has proven unsuccessful time and time again, Max is still hopeful that someday, sports and weather, his chief topics of conversation will be the icebreaker he needs in meeting the right woman:
He cleared his throat and turned his head, making sure his voice would project to her. “The weather’s nice today.”
She glanced sideway at him and then, apparently realizing he was talking to her, gave him a brief smile. “Yes it is.”
“It’ll start getting cold soon.”
She turned her attention back to the magazine she’d been reading but he wasn’t ready to give up “Do you follow any sports?”
No, I don’t. Sorry,” she said glancing at him again, this time without the smile. Then she turned the page of the magazine and lifted it so there could be no missing the fact she was reading.
Tori recognizes that Max needs a hand, and she is just the woman to take on the job. He has a few rough edges mainly with his conversational skills, but he is no slouch in the look department. Tori thinks he is gorgeous.
From the very beginning Max finds it easy to talk to Tori. She understands him –her laughter and sense of fun put him at ease:
She heard him breathe in deeply. “You smell like fruit.”
This time when she laughed he only gave her a puzzled look, which made her laugh harder. He put his hand on her shoulder and pushed her sideways enough so he could close the door, then hit the button on his fob to lock the car.
“That was a compliment specific to you,” he said in a confused tone that did nothing to damper her amusement.
“Was it a compliment? It was hard to tell.”
He offered his arm and she took it, trying to compose herself as they walked across the parking lot.
“I was trying to tell you that you smell nice.”
She squeezed his forearm. “Then just say that. You didn’t need to be so specific.”
So my specific compliments should be vague.”
Stopping him before he could open the door to the restaurant, she turned to look up at him. “Just be you, Max. The woman you marry has to love you for who you are, and I shouldn’t have laughed."
And that is what is perfect about this story. Max doesn’t need to be the most stimulating conversationalists to all women just the right one.
Learn more about or order a copy of Falling for Max by Shannon Stacey, available July 29, 2014:
Leigh Davis, blogger