A Knockout Story of an Unlikely Heroine

May 16 2016
Share A Knockout Story of an Unlikely Heroine

You don’t often come across novels about professional wrestling. And novels about women’s wrestling, in particular, are few and far between. So Angelina Mirabella’s debut novel, THE SWEETHEART, is an instant standout. This story takes place long before men with muscles as big as their egos competed in steel-cage matches.

Set in the 1950s, this is a story about a girl. A tall, shy, and slightly awkward girl from Philadelphia, who is looking to make her mark in the world of professional wrestling. Obviously, this is not the typical backdrop for a coming-of-age novel.

Leonie Putzkammer is a seventeen-year-old loner, resigned to a life of waitressing in order to support both herself and her widowed father. That is, until she attends a local Philadelphia wrestling match and becomes captivated by the sport. Later, when renowned wrestling promoter Salvatore Costantini walks into the local diner and offers her an opportunity to compete, she takes a chance and bravely welcomes the challenge.

Despite her naiveté and inexperience, Leonie begins training at Joe Pospisil’s School for Lady Grappling in Florida, working tirelessly to transform herself into the Gorgeous Gwen Davies—a rising star on the women’s traveling wrestling circuit. The transient lifestyle, brash colleagues, persistent money issues, and frequent injuries—including a brutal hit to the face from her trainer and tag team partner, Screaming Mimi Hollander—compounded with her father’s feeble attempts to persuade her back home, never derail her determination to be a star.

As the novel progresses and Leonie gains confidence in her abilities, she orchestrates a controversial character change—evolving from villainess to the sexy and powerful heroine. Her popularity soars, and she even garners her own allegiance of young female fans, the Gorgeous Girls.

Leonie’s newfound fame causes a rift in her contentious friendship with Mimi while also complicating her romantic relationship with fellow wrestler and Junior Heavyweight Champion, Spider McGee. Spider’s desire for a simpler life with Leonie may be admirable, but his opinionated views on everything from her fashion choices to her career aspirations is nothing more than controlling and overprotective—even, at times, misogynistic. Leonie, like most women during the 1950s, must tackle whether to pursue her personal dreams or succumb to society’s expectations of women, such as motherhood and tending to the home.

THE SWEETHEART delivered in more ways than I could’ve imagined. Wrestling may have been the catalyst that initially hooked me, but it wasn’t the reason I kept reading. This is a story all readers can relate to: a story of living one’s truth through misconceptions, reinvention, and self-exploration. And ultimately, it’s a daring and progressive examination of feminism in 1950s America. Leonie is an apt feminist leader as she navigates and perseveres through a male-dominated sport.

Like Leonie, Angelina Mirabella is as much a superstar on the page as Leonie is in the ring. Angelina’s technical prowess in her debut novel is impressive. Information on wrestling is interwoven seamlessly throughout the story while not coming across as didactic or dull. Wrestling fans will be impressed with THE SWEETHEART’s rich history, and skeptics will be won over.

The Sweetheart
Angelina Mirabella

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo


Editors Recommend: 10 Sizzling Reads for the Summer

By Off the Shelf Staff | July 27, 2021

10 Crowd-Pleasing Books That Are Easy to Love

By Chris Gaudio | July 26, 2021

9 Mesmerizing Books for Fans of All the Light We Cannot See

By Emily Lewis | July 22, 2021

5 Reasons I Moved Fredrik Backman to the Top of My TBR Pile

By Holly Claytor | July 21, 2021

Small Towns, Big Secrets: 7 Gripping Novels Rife with Scandal

By Anna Bailey | July 20, 2021

10 Debut Novels Making a Splash This Summer

By Alice Martin | July 19, 2021


You must be logged in to add books to your shelf.

Please log in or sign up now.