Title: A Sticky Wicket in Bollywood (International Men of Sports #1)
Author: T.A. Chase and Devon Rhodes
Cover Artist: Posh Gosh
Publisher: Total E-Bound
Buy Link Amazon.com
Genre: Bollywood, contemporary
Length: 155 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
A Guest Review by Cryselle
Review Summary: A story with a wonderful setup and a doormat MC.
A handsome Bollywood actor must choose between his career and a rugged cricket player from his past, who he’s fallen in love with…again.
Rajan Malik has the world of Bollywood in the palm of his hand—a beautiful girlfriend, starring roles, adoring fans… He should be happy, but behind the façade lies a man conflicted and exhausted by the pressure placed on him by his terminally ill mother, his agent and society. His life is not his own, and all he wants to do is escape.
Indian Premier League cricketer Ajay Singh can’t believe how bad his university roommate Rajan looks when he spots his picture in the paper. They had parted on bad terms. Still, he’s moved to offer Rajan his support by renewing their friendship.
But friendship was not all they shared back then. Though Ajay is out, Rajan isn’t willing to give up his carefully cultivated Bollywood image to be with him publicly. And with very little privacy, it won’t take long for someone to find out they are more than friends.
Their renewed secret affair is fraught with difficulties as they deal with the death of Rajan’s mother, the secret of Rajan’s till-now absent father, a jealous friend, the intrusive media and threatening notes from someone who seems to know all about their private lives…
It’s a bit of a sticky wicket they find themselves in. Will it be too late when they finally realise that they’ll both need to compromise, or they’ll stand to lose everything?
After that blurb there just isn’t much I can put as a spoiler, so.…
I don’t know much about Bollywood, other than India has a thriving movie industry and that very often where a Western film would insert a love or sex scene, the actors break out into song and dance instead. So guarding the public image of the biggest stars in a way that made Rock Hudson’s marriage to Phyllis Gates look like a weak effort seemed right in character.
The bulk of the story takes place in India and amongst the wealthy who never get into documentaries, and the life looked very comfortable. The big inconvenience was dealing with traffic. I didn’t exactly feel transported into either that part of the world or the lives of the MC’s, but it kept me interested. The third person POV didn’t feel especially deep, which kept my involvement with the characters a little more superficial than engaged.
Rajan seems to have stumbled into stardom as a result of ferocious pushes from behind: his mother was a former Bollywood star who was certainly living vicariously though him. How a man whose heart isn’t in it can be bullied into the top tier of something he doesn’t want was a bit of a mystery, but saying “Yes, Maa” to anything she wanted was easier than saying no. Especially with her health for a guilt card. Rajan’s mother was the driving force behind most of the action, past and present. I wanted desperately for him to grow a set and tell her, or anyone, no. The only one Rajan could say no to for any reason was Ajay, which cost him some likeability. He’s tired now, but he’s also abdicated living his life to other people a long time ago.
Ajay, the top cricket player, was a national star in his own right, and openly gay, something Rajan’s mother had HUGE issues with, costing them the relationship when they were young. Ajay’s still dealing with how Rajan walked out of his life back in their university days, and now that he’s being offered what he missed so much from before, he’s right to be wary about how much commitment he’s being offered from a man who mostly exists as other people’s fantasies.
The secondary characters had quite a lot of life on page: Rajan’s mother certainly dominated the book, his costar Karishma has some spark to her, as does Ajay’s fellow cricketer Neel, all of whom pretty much overshadow Rajan for the strength of their opinions. A few deathbed secrets raised eyebrows—how could a person feels as they did and them behave as they do kept running through my mind.
I enjoyed the story as a look into another culture, but the romance didn’t jump off the page for me, mostly because of Rajan’s lack of spine, and some places where the exposition takes the place of action. Don’t tell me there were riots over a cricket game back when, show me the fans pushing on the sides of the car. The flatness of such details took away from what could have been a vibrant story, but it’s a pleasant afternoon’s read. The story is deeply discounted both at the publisher and at Amazon for a limited time, to 99 cents, so get a copy and let me know if you agree or disagree. 3.5 stars