A Man Like Mac
Fay Robinson makes a strong debut with A Man Like Mac, which features one of the best heroes to come down the romance road in a long time. John “Mac” McCandless is a teacher, a coach, a world-class athlete and a paraplegic. When paraplegics are featured in a romance, the plot often consists of the hero coming to terms with his disability because of the love of a heroine. Such books often downplay the physical difficulties faced by paraplegics. Not this one.
Keely Wilson had been a track star for Coach McCandless at Courtland College. She has gone on to fame and fortune as one of America’s best marathon runners and desperately wants a gold medal in the Sydney Olympic games. When a driver runs a stop sign, smashes into her and leaves her with broken bones, her doctors do not hold out hope that she can run again on a world-class level. Keely refuses to believe their diagnosis; she is certain that if anyone can help her, it is her old coach and mentor Mac McCandless.
When Keely talks to Mac, he too does not hold out much hope, but she is insistent and he finally agrees to help her with her rehabilitation. When they first talk, Mac is sitting on a bench – not in his wheelchair, and when he leaves the bench and transfers over to it, Keely is shocked. She had no idea Mac had been paralyzed and her shock is such that she throws up.
I hated her right then, but Robinson explains Keely’s reaction. When they had been student and teacher, Keely had idolized Mac and been a bit in love with him; her shock at seeing him in a wheelchair is what causes her to react with nausea. Mac had been proud of Keely and a bit in love with her as well. He had followed her career and his regard and love for her is what makes him take on her rehabilitation in what will probably be a lost struggle. Slowly, their relationship begins to grow.
Mac has been in the wheelchair for some time when the book begins. He has gone through all the stages of grief, denial and anger and is now comfortable in his own skin. Sure, he wishes he did not have to be in a wheelchair and he can’t help but mourn his loss, but if you are expecting anger and self-pity in your hero – Mac is not that kind of man.
I was slow to warm up to Keely. She had a bundle of problems along with her inability to face the fact that her racing career was over. Her single-minded determination to race on a world level made her an intense heroine, but too stubborn at times. Keely had lots of personal issues to deal with, and while they served to illuminate her character, the author dwelled on her angst when I would rather have been reading about her relationship with Mac.
I can’t help but mention the scene that takes place after Keely has spent the night with Mac for the first time. In the passion of the moment, he forgets to perform a catherization before he goes to bed. When he wakes up, to his horror he has wet the bed and Keely. Her reaction to this embarrassing accident is when I began to love her. It’s a marvelous scene, as are all the love scenes in this book.
One of the best aspects of this book is the community of “crips,” as they refer to themselves. Mac’s best friend Alan, also in a wheelchair, is a fantastic supporting character. He has a sharp, dark sense of humor and is bawdy, funny, and friendly as can be. He and his able-bodied wife Vicki, along with some of the wheelchair athletes at Courtland, help Keely adjust to the realities of the crips. I’d love to see Alan again in a book of his own.
I recommend A Man Like Mac whole-heartedly. It is funny, touching and has wonderful, wonderful characters. I see a bright future for Fay Robinson – she’s on my list of writers to watch out for.