Man like Mac

A Man Like Mac (Harlequin Superromance #911) - Fay Robinson For Olympic runner Keely Wilson, all it took was an instant for her entire life to change irrevocably. While out for a run a car runs a stop sign and hits her, leaving her in critical condition and doctors telling her she'll never run again. For Keely, however, running isn't just something she does, it's who she is. Determined to prove the doctors wrong, she heads to her alma mater and Mac McCandless. If anyone could get her back into competition form again, it's her former coach - once she recovers from seeing him in a wheelchair.Mac takes her on against his own better judgement. He's seen the doctors' reports and medical records and knows she'll never be able to run competitively again. But Keely has always been a weakness for him, as he was a little bit in love with her when she was a student, and he can't quite fight the desire to spend this time with her. Besides, if any running coach is in a position to help her both with running and accepting changed circumstances, it's him.While this is in essence an issue novel about disability, it goes about it in a completely accessible manner. It refrains from any long winded info dumps or lectures and lets the story tell itself. Not only that, but it's mostly Keely's story about her running and her life. Mac's paraplegia is not the book's gimmick by any means. They're two people balancing each other out. Mac encouraging Keely to find a way to acceptance so she can move forward and Keely pushing Mac to reclaim the racing dreams he gave up when he had to raise his siblings after his parents died, albeit as a wheelchair racer.I loved all of the characters in this book. Mac's good friend, next-door neighbor and fellow cripple Alan is as flirty and carefree as Mac is reserved and grounded. Alan's outrageous wife Vicki, with her unironic beehive and pronounced Georgia drawl, had me laughing out loud with her frank cripple sex talks that scandalized Keely. Keely herself is a complex character. She's a mess of mother problems, daddy hero worship and identity issues. Mac is there to help her work these issues out, even taking her to task at a point in the book where I wanted to strangle her myself. Definitely a strong character focus to this book.As I'm a tough critic when it comes to disabled protagonists, I have to say I loved the treatment Robinson gives it here. She doesn't sugar coat any of it, yet the novel never loses the romance or heat. Mac was proof that great sex encompasses more than just the old in out, as he truly feels nothing below the waist, and that the body's greatest sex organ is the one between its ears. In fact, the novel has perhaps the ballsiest thing a romance heroine has ever done. As the hero is wallowing in self-loathing after wetting the bed during the night, she turns it around on him, asking if he'd be disgusted with her if she were the wetter. When he insists it's irrelevant, since he was the wetter in reality, she evens the score. Probably the most shocking, hilarious and somehow rather sweet thing I'd ever read.I did have some issue with the end. Robinson seemed to want to play Santa and grant their every wish in the last 20 pages or so. This resulted in some rather convenient and unbelievable events. Since they happen after a satisfactorily realistic resolution to the main conflicts, they don't harm the book all that much.In summary, it's the anti-Phantom Waltz. It wasn't perfect, but it was an achievement in that it's a realistic look at disability, complete with no boners at all and bed wetting, while still being completely romantic with an optimistic HEA. I was impressed and touched at the same time. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who likes something a little different.