Book Review: Stacked Up by Sidney Halston

I feel like these books just keep getting better as the series goes on, and even when I have issues with them, I still have a really hard time tearing myself away.


I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
An MMA fighter falls for a single mother who’s hiding from her ultra-religious stepfather, despite the fact that the doesn’t want kids. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Going Out On Her Own
Penny ran away from her stepfather a year ago after he’d put her in a home for pregnant women when someone who worked for him convinced her to sleep with him. As a television evangelist, her stepfather cares more about his image than her, and she no longer wants anything to do with that life. So she heads to Tarpon Springs with her baby to start a new life, difficult as it may be. She has to hold two jobs and can still barely make ends meet. Luckily, she has people willing to help her out, but it doesn’t keep her from feeling lonely and helpless.

The Anti-Kid Hero
Travis has had a thing for Penny ever since she showed up in town. Though he doesn’t admit it to anyone, he’s kept an eye out for her since she started working at the local bar he patronizes. Even though she opens up to him one night and cries on his shoulder, he still doesn’t know much about her. So when he finds out she has a daughter (after they’ve slept together), he’s shocked and hurt that she never shared that detail.

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Of course, part of the reason she didn’t share is because Travis spends an inordinate amount of time talking about how doesn’t like kids and doesn’t want any. It’s kind of understandable why she’s hesitant, and I’m usually the one who champions being up front at the beginning about these things.

Maybe Not All Kids
When the father of her child shows back up, a tool being used by her stepfather to get her back, Travis helps Penny and Belle regardless of the fact that he’s said he doesn’t want a kid in his life. It’s not long before he falls in love with both of them and does everything he can to make sure Penny’s family problems go away (short of murder). I thought I’d be annoyed by the way I knew the plot was going to unfold. I mean, duh, we know he’s going to eventually accept them both, right? But honestly? I loved how it was written and how despite his protests, Travis actually seemed to love Belle before he did Penny. I mean, there was affection there, but the connection he formed with the little girl was really sweet.

The Romance Factor
I loved the way Travis takes care of Penny, and though I got annoyed with his constant back and forth on wanting to take care of her and wanting to be mad at her for not telling him about Belle, I could also understand his feelings on the matter. The romance was particularly strong in the protectiveness he showed her and the care she showed him, taking care of him and supporting him in a way no one had before (also, Travis had mom issues, which figured into his reluctance to get into a real relationship). 4/5


The Steam Factor
The sexy times are not super frequent but they’re super hot when they happen. 5/5

Final Thoughts
I really enjoyed Travis and Penny’s story and it was nice seeing the couples from the other books in the series, especially Enzo and JL from the last book who have twins of their own in this one. The MMA fighting isn’t prevalent though, so if you’re looking for a lot of fighting, it’s there, but not frequent. Still a great read with flawed but likable characters.

Book Review: Falling for Max by Shannon Stacey

This is one of the later books in the Kowalski family series, but it’s the first one I heard about and it grabbed my attention right away. Nerdy, shy hero? I am all over that! And while it definitely feels like a later book with all of the other relationships and references to past plots, I didn’t feel so lost in the history that I couldn’t enjoy the story


One-Sentence Synopsis
A waitress befriends a shy, socially awkward man and sets out to help him find a wife. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Loving the Shy Guy
Everything about this book was complete crack for me. Max is the super awkward town resident who’s somewhat of a mystery and was at one time speculated to be a serial killer (jokingly…sort of). But the truth is that he spends a lot of time on his own because he doesn’t relate to people well and has always been known been seen as odd (though it’s never stated, he seems to have Asperger’s). But over time, he’s made friends and has went out of his comfort zone to actually go out and keep himself from becoming too reclusive. And one of the things he wants to do? Find a wife and have kids. But he realizes that to get there, he needs to find someone to date first.

Collateral Damage
Tori is a graphic designer and waitress who has an instant connection with Max. Witnessing his shyness, she offers to not only help him find someone in town to date, but to also teach him how to be a little more at ease with someone in a conversation. They become friends quickly, and though Tori finds him attractive, the shock and hurt of her parents’ divorce has made her built a wall against trying to find a relationship for herself, fearful that it would end with hateful and mean words, and the last thing she wants to do is hurt Max.

Friends to Lovers
I love foreplay in my stories, but I also like a good slow burn where feelings develop naturally, and this story falls into tha category. When their friendship starts, Tori and Max really do plan on just being friends, regardless of what others seem to think when they see them hanging out together. It’s a small town, and people speculate, and they figure that once Max starts dating someone, the talk will die down.


The natural way they start realizing they want to be more than friends is well paced, and so by the time Max finally admits that he wants a relationship with Tori, there’s no feeling of insta-love.

Flaws & All
Max wanting a wife and kids feels old fashioned but it’s so sweet. His being excited to have kids thing made me melt (and I’m not even a kid person). It was also endearing, though sad, how self aware he was of his own oddness, and how happy he was to finally have a group of friends he could spend time with.

Tori frustrated me with her fear of getting close to Max, but I felt that her reasons were sound, so rather than being an annoying character who went around in circles that didn’t make sense. I completely understood where she was coming from. The fact that her mother was a horrible person kind of cemented that understanding.

The Romance Factor
Max makes such a good romantic hero, and the fact that he tries to give Tori what she wants when she says she wants to be friends with benefits, even when he knows he wants more, made me want to hug him. I mean, to be honest, I kind of wanted to hug him throughout the whole book. More importantly, I wanted Tori to hug him. 5/5


The Steam Factor
Though we get to see some of the sexy times and thoughts between Max and Tori, it doesn’t go into need-a-cold-shower territory. In fact, the sex is just as sweet as the rest of their relationship. 3/5

Final Thoughts
While I’m glad I read this book, I wish I would have started with the first book and got to know the rest of the characters and followed Max’s story up to the point he meets Tori. When I heard about this on a podcast, that seemed to be one of the things people enjoyed, that they’d been hoping he would get his own story. The good news is that I enjoyed this book so much that I figure if I go back to start at the beginning and read the whole series, I’ll be ready to re-read this one when I get to it.