Max likes his life, he loves his job, he has friends,and he has figured out routines that let him have a comfortable if not exciting life. Despite befriending several of the Kowalskis and opening his home up on game day to fellow sports fans, to most Whitford residents he remains a mysterious object of speculation and gossip. No one seems to know what he does for a living and why he needs state of the art security for his basement. Max up to now he hasn’t minded the speculation that he might be a serial killer or a secret agent and has enjoyed the mild notoriety.
While Max is content and comfortable with his routine and quiet life, he is coming to realize that he is missing something. What he is missing is a wife and children. Methodical and rational, Max sets out to find a wife by breaking it down to the simplest steps,starting out by finding a date and to that end he breaks his usual routine to visit the Whitford Diner in hopes of meeting some unattached women.
Tori is also a fairly recent addition to Whitford. Tori is graphic artist who like Max works from home. She supplements her income and motivates herself to get out of her house and PJs by picking up a shifts at Paige’s diner. Tori is manning the counter when Max walks into the diner for the first time and she watches him struggle to make small talk with a woman at the counter. After watching him get shot down, it is not long before Tori learns all about Max’s project and convinces him to let her help him become more dateable.
“She definitely wasn’t the kind of date he was looking for, since she liked her relationships to end after a few hours and he was looking for until death did they part.
But he was a nice guy and she has a soft spot for underdogs, so she was going to do whatever she could to make sure Max found his Mrs.Crawford.”
Tori sets out to smooth down his Max’s rough edges, giving him pointers on how to ask someone out on a date, get better at small talk and minimize first date awkwardness but as she spends more time with him, she ends up spending less time making him over and more time appreciating how deeply lovable Max already is and wanting to destroy those in his past that made his feel like someone not quite deserving of love.
“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.”
Before long Max’s modest list of expectations for his hypothetical wife, start changing into one that looks and acts a lot like Tori. The only problem is that Tori is firmly anti-marriage. Despite her close friends being happily paired up, and seeing loving long-lasting relationships like that off her aunt and uncle, Tori has sworn off permanent relationships and marriage. After seeing how hateful and vindictive her parents became during their divorce, a divorce bitter enough to drive Tori out of her hometown. Too terrified to ever risk going through ugliness her parents put her through, and fearful that she could find herself hating someone she once loved, Tori refuses to consider ever marrying.
Tori has the best of intentions, ignoring her growing attraction and feelings for Max in attempts not to cross lines that would move them beyond friendship and distract him from his project. Max is however is distracted and perceptive and he knows who he loves and wants in his life.
I really loved this romance. I loved how Tori found herself falling for Max against her best intentions,and I loved how clearly she saw him while remaining willfully blind to her feelings. I love that she saw his quirks and anxieties but even more clearly saw his humor, thoughtfulness, tenderness, passion and intelligence.
I loved that the message of their story was to learn to love and trust yourself and that the person that needed to learn that more than anyone wasn’t socially awkward Max but Tori.
My husband and I both witnessed our parents’ marriages implode dramatically while we were in our early teens and I could identify and recognize many of the dynamics Tori experienced with her parents. Her feelings and reactions to it rang true, especially how she could intellectually know that she wouldn’t behave like her parents, but still feel insecure and tentative enough to avoid relationships.
Nine books in, and this might be my favorite Kowalskis book yet.
A copy of Falling for Max was provided by the Carina Press via NetGalley for review purposes.