By day, I'm a domestic violence prosecutor. By night, I read romance to restore my faith in love, relationships, and humanity in general.
I have a soft spot for Shannon Stacey's contemporaries because they're set in northern New England, where I live, and because they're usually refreshingly free of contrivance and WTFery: they're just about regular people with regular problems living regular lives and falling in love in regular ways. You might think that would be boring, but no, at least not to me: it gives me faith, as I live my own regular life and work through my regular problems with my regular family that we've got just as good a chance at a happily ever after outcome as anyone else, and that's reassuring.
That said, Falling for Max is not nearly as strong as most of the other books in the Kowalski's series. Maybe it's time for Shannon Stacey to move on to a new town and new people, because she's scraping the bottom of the creativity barrel in tiny Whitford, Maine, or maybe this book just didn't work for me because I'm not at all a fan of the I'm-not-right-for-you-but-let-me-help-hook-you-up-with-someone-else trope (think Some Kind of Wonderful, for example). Introverted, endearingly geeky Max doesn't get out much: he spends so much of his time in the basement painting model trains that there's a rumor about town that he's really a serial killer. However, he's tired of being alone and decides to go looking for a wife. Tori, a waitress at the local diner, watches him get shot down on his first attempt to talk to a woman, and she takes pity on him. Tori has no interest in marriage herself, but she's happy to help polish Max's rough edges and prepare him to meet his future wife.
From the moment they meet, it's clear how this story will go, and it does: they develop feelings for each other, such that when Max goes out with someone else he feels guilty and Tori feels jealous, but Tori can't get over her own hangups about commitment. It might have worked if Tori's commitment phobia stemmed from something more substantial than her parents' acrimonious divorce. Not to minimize her angst, but please: with a national divorce rate somewhere between 25 and 45% (depending upon the source of one's statistics), Tori's extreme reaction to her parents' all-too-common marital implosion makes her seem like a speshul snowflake.
Anyway, this whole story felt contrived and predictable to me, and nothing about it challenged my expectations in any way. Oh well.