Sports Thriller, Crime Thriller, Romantic Thriller
Published: April 2021
Publisher: The Hutchinson Group
A ballplayer. A diva. The mob. Trouble, 1920s style.
Ace major league catcher Joe Rath suddenly finds himself riding the pine when team management decides they’ve got to have slugger Frank Walsh on the roster. Only, Walsh brings along more baggage than anybody bargains for.
Meanwhile, Rath’s troubles multiply. With his wife already discontent back home, he keeps bumping into a certain breathtaking showgirl whose dangerous situation he can’t ignore. A Chicago crime boss enters the picture, and things snowball.
Before he knows it, Rath finds himself not only running the base paths but also running for his life.
Excerpt from Chapter 3 of GP Hutchinson’s Pickoff
Just then, a lone spotlight came on, casting its smoky beam to the baby grand piano on stage. As the piano player commenced the introduction to a slower number, a drop-dead gorgeous blonde in a glittering silver dress drifted into the curve of the piano.
Pinky’s jaw fell open. “Hubba hubba,” he murmured.
Hubba hubba, indeed, Joe mused.
She began to sing, and her voice was as captivating as her appearance. “There’s a saying old, says that love is blind . . . ”
“This is that new Gershwin song.” Pinky wiped his lips with the back of his hand.
Pinky stared at him. “You’re a married man, Joe. You need to leave this one to me.”
He was right, of course. But that voice.
“Only man I ever think of with regret . . . ”
Joe stood spellbound. The girl was stunning—fashionable waves crimped into her chin-length hair, smoky eyes, perfect lips. She made the melody ebb and flow, seemingly without effort. Yet just beneath the surface, there was something he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
In a fuller voice, the lovely diva carried the tune along to its elegant chorus. And all of a sudden, there it was. “I’m a little lamb who’s lost in a wood . . . ”
That was it—an air of vulnerability, Joe thought. Despite the aura of sophisticated sensuality, something in the way she held her hands, something in the way she rendered each phrase said she wasn’t so secure.
Come on, he said to himself. How do you know that? It’s a song about a woman in need—
‘Someone to Watch Over Me.’ That’s the way she’s gotta sing it.Nevertheless, he couldn’t shake the notion. He knew insecurity. He’d felt it himself in some ball games. He’d picked up on it in other ballplayers, even called for a certain pitch to take advantage of it when he sensed it in a batter.
The song ended, and the room resounded with applause.
The girl gave a demure smile, a bashful bow. And then she sashayed off the stage to a dark fellow in a dark suit who gave her his arm and led her through a curtained doorway.
“Wow!” Pinky’s gaze was still on the curtains. “I’ll watch over you, sweetheart. Come to Papa.”
Joe glanced Pinky’s way. “Wipe your chin, buddy. You’re drooling.”
Pinky ran his fingers over his chin, then looked Joe in the eyes. “Whatcha talking about, funny guy? Dry as a bone. Anyway”—he pointed—“I saw the way you were looking at her, too. Don’t make me have to tell the little missus back in Baltimore your eyes are wandering when you’re off away from home.”
He knew Pinky was only kidding. Nonetheless, he was right. Mena was already bothered by all their time apart. Joe wondered whether she secretly feared he might fall for some pretty young doll he met along the way and return to Baltimore with divided affections.
“One more beer,” he said, “then I’m gonna ankle it back to the hotel, call it a night.”
“Hey, I was only joking about you and Miss Little Lost Lamb. Don’t you wanna stick around and see if she’s gonna sing another number?” Pinky clasped Joe’s shoulder.
“I don’t know . . . ”
“Really. Why hurry off? It’s not like you and me are gonna work a lot of innings tomorrow.”
A flurry of thoughts whirled through Joe’s mind—Mena, the singer, asking Cap Irwin to trade him to a team where he’d have a shot at becoming a star catcher once again. “Probably not,” he admitted.
“There you go, then. Let’s get us another coupla drinks.”
“Just one more.
About the Author
“GP Hutchinson has the gift to tell a compelling tale, enlighten you without preaching and keep you on the edge of your seat. He takes you on unexpected trails populated by flesh and blood characters of depth and substance,” says Western TV & movie star Alex Cord. Nick Wale of Novel Ideas says, “With great mastery GP Hutchinson paints a West I can see, feel and smell. [He] knows how to write, and he knows instinctively.”
Hutchinson’s first Western novel, “Strong Convictions,” won the Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award for Best First Western of 2015, as well as a gold medal from the National Indie Excellence Awards. “Strong Suspicions,” the second volume in the Emmett Strong Western series, garnered a gold medal in the 2016 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards. And “Strong Ambitions” took silver in the 2017 Readers’ Favorite Awards.
In addition to his interest in the Old West, GP Hutchinson has been a longtime enthusiast of baseball, America’s first true national pastime, a game played from coast to coast by the late 1800s. While he enjoys the game as it is played today, his most recent novels are tales of players caught up in life-and-death struggles during the early years of professional baseball. Steeped in the actual history of the game, as well as societal realities of the times, these stories feature both fictional and actual characters, teams, and leagues.
A graduate of Louisiana State University and Dallas Theological Seminary, Hutchinson has lived in Costa Rica and Spain. He currently resides in upstate South Carolina with his wife, Carolyn. Besides writing, he enjoys spending time in the mountains and horseback riding whenever the opportunity arises
This “Meet the Character Day” blog is part of a series examining my romance novels. In each “Behind the Scenes” blog, I talk about why I wrote the book, share my thoughts on the plot and/or characters, and reveal what I loved most (or least) about writing the book. The “Meet the Character Day” blogs are fun chats with the heroes and heroines from my romances. Warning: blogs may contain spoilers.
Hello romance lovers! Today we’re chatting with Everett Kinkade, the hero from A Secret Match by Kelli A. Wilkins. Let’s see what’s on Everett’s mind…
Greetings, Everett. A Secret Match is a contemporary gay romance set in the world of professional wrestling. Can you tell us a bit more about the book?
Absolutely, and please, call me Ev. Kelli got the idea for this story while she was writing A Deceptive Match, her straight romance that also takes place in the wrestling world. I was a secondary character in that book. I helped the hero (Vin) and the heroine (Danni) get together. Vin is my best friend, so I acted as a soundboard/matchmaker for him and Danni.
While Kelli was writing A Deceptive Match, she knew I needed my own book, but she wasn’t exactly sure what the storyline would be. Then one day on the way to work, the majority of the plot popped into her head, and she was off and writing. She says I’m one of those characters who tries to take over a book. (Laughs) And why not? I’m charming, and witty, and handsome. Who wouldn’t want to read about my life?
A big part of the novel centers around me dealing (or rather, not dealing) with my sexuality and my (un)willingness to be open about who I really am. My longtime partner, Josh, is tired of being kept in my “walk-in closet” and wants me to come out (at least to friends and family) but I’m concerned about losing my job. (Will fans accept a gay wrestler?) Part of me wanted to keep everything just as it was because that’s safe. But another part of me longed to stop pretending and hiding the truth.
Do you sometimes want to strangle Kelli? What sort of upsetting things did Kelli do to you in the book?
At times, yes! The book starts off great, but within the first two scenes, all hell breaks loose. Josh tells me he’s tired of being my little secret, and wants me to come out. That caught me off guard and it was something I was not at all comfortable with. (Kelli loves jumping right into conflict!) So, Josh gave me an ultimatum. (Sighs) Things didn’t go well for us, and I was devastated. Only one person knew about Josh, so I turned to my best friend, Vin, for help and advice.
Over the course of the book I had to come to terms with accepting myself for who I am, what I am, and how I’m perceived by the wrestling fans, my coworkers, and everyone else. Being an openly gay wrestler was something I didn’t sign up for, and Kelli threw me into a lion’s den! I did eventually come out—not once, but twice!—on live TV. That changed everything and took the story in a whole new direction.
Looking back, I realize it was for the best and Kelli knew exactly what she was doing, but at the time, I was physically hurt, emotionally wrecked, confused, and pretty pissed. Vin and Danni helped me through all the turmoil, and Josh stood by me when I needed him most.
What is it about Josh that makes you crazy in a good way?
He likes to drive me nuts on purpose. He enjoys teasing me and pushing my buttons and my boundaries. But it’s always in a positive way, for my own good. He’ll deliberately force me to come out of my shell and open up to new people and new experiences. And I love him dearly for it.
Was there an instant attraction between you?
Yes and no. I met Josh at the gym—but it wasn’t a gym hookup. I noticed him out of the corner of my eye and thought he was cute, but I was so deep in the closet I didn’t dare approach him. Josh asked me for training advice and we got to know each other in a casual way. Then one night he asked me if I wanted to grab a bite to eat, and the rest is… in the book! (Laughs)
Kelli did an excellent job of working my first meeting (and first kiss) with Josh into the book. They are some of the most sensual, tender scenes she’s ever written. I was incredibly nervous and unsure of myself, and Josh was there to put me at ease.
Tell us a little bit about your world. What are your greatest challenges?
I’m on the road wrestling about 300 days a year, so one of my greatest challenges is maintaining my relationship with Josh. We don’t see each other all the time, but we’re constantly talking on the phone and sharing photos. When Josh has time off from work he comes on the road with me and we hang out before my matches. It’s not easy (okay, it’s almost impossible) to have a “normal” home life, but we do the best we can—and we make the most of the time we have together.
Describe yourself in four words.
Sensitive, strong, sexy, wiseass.
Do readers need to be wresting fans to enjoy A Secret Match?
Nope! Wrestling is the setting or backdrop to the main romance. Kelli wrote the story in a way to help non-wrestling fans understand the moves, terminology, and action. So they won’t be confused or lost.
Kelli says the only difference between A Secret Match and other contemporary gay romances is that the story is about wrestlers instead of more “traditional” characters, like police officers, Navy SEALs, FBI agents etc. She could have written a similar gay romance about another sport (like hockey or basketball) but she chose wrestling because she’s been a life-long wrestling fan, and it’s what she knows and loves.
Okay, tell us the truth. Are the characters in the book based on real wrestlers?
Nope. Kelli gets asked this all the time, and I’m here to say emphatically none of the characters in the book are based 100% on any one wrestler. Kelli drew upon her years of wrestling knowledge and took bits and pieces of different wrestlers to create the people in the story. I’m drawn from at least five different guys. Even Nick August isn’t completely based on a famous “billionaire” wrestling promoter and owner. He’s close, but even he’s not 100%.
What do you and Kelli think of wrestling’s popularity these days?
We’re loving it! The wrestling world is getting lots of exposure and is certainly part of popular culture. There has been a recent wave of wrestler biographies, crossover shows featuring wrestlers, and wrestlers guest-starring on reality shows. Maybe we started a trend, because now people want to see behind-the-scenes shows of what goes on in the ring, out of the ring, and what happens backstage that fans never know. It’s an interesting business, for sure.
Anything else you want to add?
Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with everyone. I’m grateful to Kelli for sharing my story with the world. And I’m pleased to help her promote it during Pride month. A Secret Match isn’t just a “wrestling story” or a typical romance loaded with sex scenes, it’s a sensitive, coming out story that resonates with all types of romance readers; straight, gay, or whatever.
A Secret Match is a fantastic story, and it’s Kelli’s favorite gay romance. Anyone who likes a good love story/romance should read the book. And you don’t have to be a wrestling fan to enjoy the book. But you might become one after you read it! (Laughs)
If gay romances aren’t your thing, I urge you to check out the book that introduced me to readers, A Deceptive Match. It’s a hot romance and a fun behind-the-scenes look into the world of professional wrestling.
Kelli has written romances in all genres—historical, paranormal, contemporary, gay, and straight—but they all have two things in common—they’re all unique stories, and they’re anything but boring! I hope you’ll check them out. I plan on reading her other two gay romances, Four Days with Jack and Killer in Wolf’s Clothing.
I invite readers to catch up on all of Kelli’s romances and visit her on social media. If you missed a blog, you can catch up here: https://www.kelliwilkins.com/blog
A SECRET MATCH
Everett Kinkade is a world-famous professional wrestler and the sexy heartthrob of millions of adoring female fans. But Ev has a secret he doesn’t dare share with anyone. He’s gay.
After years of being Ev’s secret lover, Josh is tired of hiding in the shadows and wants Ev to openly acknowledge their relationship. Coming out is the last thing Ev wants and fears it will ruin his career.
One night in a moment of truth, Everett outs himself on live TV. There’s no going back, and his announcement sparks a firestorm of problems—both personally and professionally. He’s forced to come to grips with who he really is while facing down a manipulative boss and a tag-team out to destroy him.
Torn between living a lie and losing the man he loves, Ev has risked everything… can he find a balance between his career and his heart?
Order A Secret Match here:
All other platforms: https://books2read.com/u/md6rZb
Read reviews here: https://www.kelliwilkins.com/a-secret-match
Don’t miss the book that introduced Ev to fans… A Deceptive Match:
All other platforms: https://www.books2read.com/u/3RB96j
Read reviews here: https://www.kelliwilkins.com/a-deceptive-match
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 20 romance novels, 7 non-fiction books, and 3 horror ebooks. Her romances span many genres and settings, and she likes to scare readers with her horror stories.
She released Journaling Every Week: 52 Topics to Get You Writing in early 2021. This fun and innovative guide to journaling is filled with hundreds of thought-provoking prompts designed to get you writing about your feelings and emotions.
In 2020 Kelli published Love, Lies & Redemption, a western romance set in 1877 Nebraska. This novel blends a sensual love story with mystery and danger.
Visit her website/blog www.KelliWilkins.com for a full title list and to find all her social media links.