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Man Behind the Voice by Lisa Bingham
(Harl. American #835, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-16835-7
***
Man Behind the Voice spotlights a woman who overcomes a debilitating accident with the help of a man who teaches her that being blind doesn't mean that life is hopeless. It typifies Antoine De Saint-Exupéry's powerful quote from The Little Prince. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; What is essential is invisible to the eye.

A domino-type accident on an icy road near Estes Park, Colorado, causes movie stuntman Jackson MacAllister's truck to veer into Eleanor Rappaport's car. Jack is able to rescue Eleanor before a gasoline leak becomes dangerous. Eleanor, who's banged her head during the wreck, loses her eyesight as Jack holds her in his arms. His face is the last thing she'll see.

Eleanor, whose art career was taking her to superstardom, now has a drastically altered lifestyle. She's living on the second floor, above her aunts. Instead of art showings and international acclaim, she works behind the counter at a movie theater and sells snacks. Another blow to her self-esteem is that she's been dumped by her fiancé, who left her when he discovered that she was blind and pregnant.

Several months later Jack, who can't get this lovely woman out of his thoughts, decides to check on Eleanor. Jack is a man who's not content unless he's actively in charge of his life and is appalled that Eleanor seems merely to be existing.

Eleanor has a second job, that of critiquing art books for a local university, a job that she suspects is due to her father's influence. Jack is able to convince the university to send him over as her reader. He slowly and surely finagles his way into her life, takes her dancing, on picnics and in a wonderfully glorious scene, fulfills one of her fantasies by taking her skydiving, an episode that spotlights how people in love must rely on Trust in spite of what common sense tells them. Jack also pushes and prods Eleanor to realize that her baby, due soon, needs to have a room, furniture, clothes, etc. Its imminent arrival is something that she can't continue to ignore.

Man Behind the Voice is an engrossing story, easy and effortless to read. Jack really is a Good Guy as he pulls Eleanor out of her quiet, safe, dull life. His use of tender but merciless prodding to convince Eleanor to become an active participant in life makes for good reading.

What didn't ring true to me is Eleanor's acceptance and seeming indifference to her blindness. She doesn't rail against life's injustices, doesn't scream about her lost career, doesn't consider her ex-fiancé a rat of the first order, doesn't seem to fear the darkness and hasn't really had that much difficulty coping in a dark world. Her situation never seemed hopeless, only temporary. She does know that after the birth of her baby, she'll have an operation that has a chance of restoring her sight.

Man Behind the Voice doesn't seem to be overly rooted in everyday reality. There really is a fantasy, fictitious feel to it. I never doubted for a minute that it would have the Shakespearean ending of ‘All's Well that Ends Well.' The HEA feeling is pervasive from the beginning to the ending. That feeling kept me at a distance, never pulling me into the story and never making me a part of the lovers' story. While I'm very glad I read this story, I can't give it a strong recommendation. It has too much of a fairytale feel, considering the subject matter.

--Linda Mowery


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