In the last couple of years, professional wrestlers have begun to appear in romances as heroes, sidekicks, and villains. The sport is a big part of popular culture. In Pat White's Got a Hold on You, an ugly view of the behind-the-scenes machinations of the owners and promoters left a nasty taste in my mouth.
Frankie McGee has agreed to help her Uncle Joe revive his pro wrestling organization. She agreed to help because she remembers that he was always there for her in ways her own father was not. She is an accountant with an orderly job, an orderly pre-fiancé, and an orderly life in Boston. She plans to help with the books and the paper side of the business. When she arrives in Chicago, Uncle Joe guilts her into appearing as Tatianna the Tigress when the actress chosen to be Tatianna pulls out forty-five minutes before the show.
Black Jack Hudson has been a pro wrestler for almost twenty years. He started when the business was more about the wrestling and less about theater. The changes have taken a toll on both his body and his soul and he is just waiting until his current contract is over to leave the ring. Joe Sullivan, better known to the wrestlers as "Sully," is pressing him to extend his contract and is not above using underhanded tactics to get what he wants.
Jack and Frankie, in the costume of the masked Tatianna, meet right before they are to go before the crowd. She is cowering in the tunnel, so he picks her up and carries her over his shoulder. He realizes that she must not have much experience acting a part, because she does just about everything wrong including really hitting him in the head, sending him to the hospital. The next day, when he arrives in Sully's office to complain about Tatianna, he encounters Frankie in her business mode and doesn't realize that the two women are one in the same. When she puts him in his place, he nicknames her the "Franken Niece."
Through most of the story, Frankie is very inconsistent. She believes that wrestling is all a big show where no one gets hurt, but she acts like Jack is going to assault her when he carries her into the ring. When his opponent starts to hit him, she decides that it is real and tries to save him, but misses and knocks out Jack. One minute she is consumed with lust for Jack and the next minute she is talking to him like he and his career are totally ignorant. Why Jack wanted her was somewhat surprising.
Jack is the more stable of the two. He got angry with Frankie, especially about the double role she was playing, but still protected her from harm. He doesn't think he is good enough for her and tries to let her go. He fights Sully to keep his character a hero, not a villain, because he wants to be a role model for teenagers. More often that not, he thinks first of Frankie's needs.
The nasty taste I mentioned earlier came from Uncle Joe a.k.a. Sully. He is one of the most manipulative, whiny, spineless creatures I've encountered in quite a while. He disregards Jack's health after an injury by promising no wrestling and then allows Jack to be ambushed in the ring. He lies to and uses Frankie and even places her is physical danger. His too quick redemption at the end did not work for me.
I believe that the author was trying to go for laughs, but I didn't laugh very much. The funniest thing in the story was Jack's "Franken Niece" nickname for Frankie. Several times, she certainly deserved it. There are some genuinely thoughtful moments between Jack and Frankie in the middle of the story, but not enough to recommend the complete tale.
--B. Kathy Leitle