Each week, Gabriel Romero’s drive to Sunday mass takes him past “El Ángel,” the golden statue at the heart of Mexico City that haunts his memories and inspires his future. Spurred by the memory of his parents, Gabriel is drawn to the secretive world of lucha libre, where wrestling, performance art and big business collide.
Under the conflicting mentorships of one of lucha libre’s famed gay exótico wrestlers and an ambitious young luchador whose star is on the rise, Gabriel must choose between traditions which ground him but may limit his future, and the lure of sex and success that may compromise his independence. Surrounded by a makeshift family of wrestlers, Gabriel charts a course to balance ambition, sexuality and loyalty to find the future that may have been destined for him since childhood.
This story was beautiful. The point of the story isn’t the romance. It’s Gabriel’s path to happiness and having what he wants in life. The romance is a tiny part of that, sure. But you’re more concerned with the wrestling and Gabriel’s life. It was such an amazing story; I couldn’t put it down! I got so invested in Gabriel’s path I had to see how it ended.
Gabriel was someone that you could tell was lost at first. He didn’t know what he wanted in life until that first lucha match with Eduardo. Watching him grow and go on this path to become a luchador, to finding his eventual happiness and completeness was a journey that takes you through the gamut of feelings. Gabriel’s ups and downs had the story ebbing and flowing and making you wonder what will be put in his path in the future. The rhythm of the story was so natural. You get pulled in and invested in Gabriel’s life and you wind up cheering for his successes and crying with him during the low points. But seeing how his journey comes full circle and Gabriel has a beautiful happily ever after I couldn’t help but be excited for him.
Ms. Finnegan writes amazing lucha libre scenes. As you read you feel like you’re right there in the ring. You can see each luchador flying, flipping, and how they’re working together for the choreography and storylines. I was so engrossed in the matches I kept rooting for luchadores as I read as I were right there ringside.
I adored the cast of characters around Gabriel. They made this amazing lucha libre family. You get invested in all their lives, wanting to know if they wind up happy as well. Miguel was such a fascinating character and more dynamic than I initially thought. He was so supportive of Gabriel and gave him what he needed to make the tough decisions. Ray was a total sweetheart. I kind of want him to get his own story because he is so bright and happy, and the best friend a guy could hope for. I didn’t like Arturo from the beginning. He was a loose cannon. But he was intriguing in his own way. I feel like he’s a completely different person by the end of the story. I want to know what happens to him afterwards, Have him possibly get his own happily ever after in his own story. Jason was wonderful. He had his share of heartbreak in the story but he was exactly what Gabriel needed.
I desperately want a sequel to this story. But at the same time, I don’t want the magic of this book ruined in anyway. I would love to see more Gabriel, more lucha libre, more Miguel, more Jason. Just more! If there’s ever another book written in the same world I would read it the moment it comes out.
I’m beyond excited to have Gabriel join us today. He’s here to talk about his most prized possession. I love the item he chose and the story behind it. What he has to say is definitely worth the time to take a look. Read and enjoy!
It’s not really mine any more. I gave it back, which only seems right—but it meant everything to me for a long, long time.
It was a kid’s mask, a cheap knock-off, I think—metallic red with silver trim. I don’t even think it was a design that belonged to a real luchador. It was just a toy.
My dad got it for me when I was a little kid, from a garage sale, I think.
He was always a big lucha libre fan. We’d watch it every weekend on TV, those broadcasts from Arena México, the same shows I did when I wrestled for the Triple L. Dad knew who all the luchadores were—their back stories, their signature moves. He’d tell me about them while we watched. It was like story time with big, dramatic clashes of titans, of técnicos and rudos, heroes and heels.
One day we settled in to watch the weekly lucha show and he says, “Hold on. We need to crown the new enmascarado.” And he pulls this little mask out from behind his back. I swear, I never took it off. We’d watch lucha, and I’d wear it, and we’d tie a sheet around my neck like a cape. Dad called me El Rey del Sofá.
That’s right. My first nombre de batalla wasn’t El Ángel Exótico, or even El Fénix Oscuro, it was The Sofa King.
That mask, it was everything when I went to live with my aunt and uncle. I’d wear it around the house and my uncle would want me to take it off, but I’d see my aunt. She’d shush him, or shake her head. She let me wore it, at least around the house, and she’d carry it in her bag when we’d go out on the weekends. She let me know it was close, until I didn’t need to wear it so much any more.
A couple of years ago, I was back in Arizona again for the first time since I was a kid. I hadn’t been back since my parents … since they were gone.
My friend Ray drove me out to the cemetery, to give me time with them. I still had that mask, and took one of El Ángel’s, too. My mom has that one.
But dad? He got that mask back. He’ll always be my El Rey del Sofá.
As they neared the stage, the entourage peeled away to reveal its leader. Ensconced in the center of the circle danced a luchador unlike any other on the afternoon fight card. With shimmering dark hair moussed high, and pink glittery eyelids lined in dark kohl stood La Rosa, the self-described Queen of the Luchadores.
La Rosa didn’t wear traditional tights, or a wrestler’s singlet, or even the trunks that the Blue Devil preferred. The wrestler wore a flesh-toned bodysuit hand-painted with roses like those worn by the dancers, leaving the impression that La Rosa was covered in nothing but flowery body paint.
The colorful luchador wore knee-high wrestling boots, though they were not black, or red, or even silver like the other luchadores—but instead a deep shade of metallic magenta with flowered inlays.
“Who is that?” Eduardo asked.
Gabriel stared at the wrestler, shaking his head. Though not tall, La Rosa had the frame of a male athlete, with muscular thighs that looked as if they could strangle a man. They betrayed years of training, but the character and the costuming were a dramatic departure from the machismo typically on display in the ring.
“He’s an exótico,” Gabriel said, hushed.
He took it all in, his eyes wide. He’d heard of exótico wrestlers before, but he had never seen one in person. He knew that in the early days of lucha libre, they performed as dandies, well-dressed wrestlers who lavished female fans with flowers and kisses. Modern exóticos were the only luchadores who performed as openly gay—and they were largely perceived as a drag act, comic relief for the fight card.
La Rosa climbed the ropes and stood on the turnbuckle. He faced out toward the crowd, arms outstretched, hips swaying with the music. As cheers echoed across the arena, La Rosa leapt heels-over-head into the ring, landing solidly on the mat, only to resume his bump-and-grind dance.
The crowd roared its approval.
“Rosa’s the técnico!” Gabriel exclaimed, shouting to be heard over the crowd noise. “I thought exóticos usually played the rudo.”
If that were true, the heel in the match would have had more fans than the hero, because La Rosa’s fans were numerous and vocal. Along the rails of the highest balcony, a boisterous cheering section had waved rainbow flags the moment La Rosa’s name was announced. Though some booed the luchador, their jeers were easily drowned out by La Rosa’s rowdy fans, who joined in an organized chant: ¡Chiquitibum a la bim bom ba!¡Chiquitibum a la bim bom ba! ¡A la bio, a la bao, a la bim bom ba! ¡Rosa, Rosa, Ra Ra Ra!
Erin Finnegan is a former journalist and winemaker who lives in the foothills outside Los Angeles. A lifelong sports fan and occasional sports writer, she has had to dive out of the way of flying luchadores at matches in both the U.S. and Mexico. Her first novel, Sotto Voce, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and a Foreword Reviews Indiefab Silver Book of the Year Award.
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