Paradise Found
by Mary Campisi, contemporary (2002)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7280-5

This is a romance story between a blind hero and his shrink woman. Of course, it has a cop out ending, but then again, Matthew Brandon is blinded from a freak accident - it's not congenital or anything - so maybe I shouldn't be that fussy. Oops. Is that a spoiler?

But Mary Campisi just have to ruin everything by using so many bland and annoying clichés to move her story.

Matt is an author whose movie adaptations - testosterone-filled dick flick stuff - are so successful that Matt is now a Hollywood celebrity. Uhm, Ms Campisi, even Michael Crichton didn't get the A star treatment Matt did in Hollywood, and Mr Crichton has earned his dues by creating ER and making some movies nobody care about. Hollywood, the last place one will call the bastion of literati appreciation, wouldn't care. Supermodels definitely will not care. Can you imagine a skinny flat-chested blonde cooing to Matt about how wonderful his big, big words are? Me neither.

But I guess authors love the fantasy that if they make it big, the whole world stops and listens to them, so heck, drag me screaming into your fantasies, authors. I don't buy nose plugs for nothing.

Matt is so sad after a freak accident leaves him blinded. In frustration, his brother and a shrink send Sara Hamilton, psychologist, to do some TLC on poor Matt. And Sara, who hateshateshates men because her ex is so scumscumscum (neenee meenee meenee ee-ee - that same freaking threnody on that world's smallest violin again - neenee meenee meenee ee-ee eek-eek..) hates him already even before she meets him. Why then does she even bother to accept the assignment? Well, her partner (business, not bedroom - excuse me, we're talking about a romance heroine here, not a human being!) asks her to, and... well, obligations, loyalty, that sort of thing romance heroines whip themselves over for orgasms. Yes, I know using one's hands is probably easier, but tell them, not me.

Matt mistakes her for a prostitute. See, apparently all those women shrinks before Sara are so overwhelmed by lust that they try to - what's the word the author uses, let me check - "conduct experiments" on him. Yes, shrinks know that blind people cannot get down to the sex thing. That's news to me, but I'm not a shrink, so what do I know? Sara gets sexually harassed, but she stays on, and soon Matt realizes that Sara is not a Slut like everybody else, Sara is Pure, a Romance Heroine, who just hates men a lot but not him, because while he doesn't like women much either, he is so hot and like, oh, he's a freaking romance hero. What more excuse does one need?

Still, when Matt and Sara are having those quiet moments of lovey-dovey moo-moo eyes discussion moments, this story almost sings. Maybe they're not that annoying clichés after all. The sex thing is pretty hot and sweet at the same time, and the lovey exchanges aren't too bad either.

Maybe this book won't be so bad after a horrendous start.

But towards the late stages of the story, the author has to put in that "She thinks he's sleeping with that slut, but he actually isn't, and he thinks she's sleeping with some slut, but she actually isn't, but what the heck, let's bicker!" subplot and it drives me back to gnashing my teeth in pain. And of course, blind men aren't sexy, but apparently gorgeous heroines wailing that they're butt ugly are, so we have that annoying angle too. The only thing that rings real and even maybe a little bitter to swallow is Sara's realization that Matt will never commit to a serious relationship with her and decides to cut bait and run. That elevates my respect for her a lot, actually.

Paradise Found may want to be a story about human courage or something equally Hallmark-sy, and it almost succeeded, if the author isn't so trigger-happy with the clichés. Readers who are looking for stories with heroes or heroines with physical handicaps may want to check this out, but me, I find this one is more of a case of paradise lost.

Rating: 76

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