Wednesday, April 13, 2016

REVIEW: "Pairing Off" by Elizabeth Harmon

Pairing Off (Red Hot Russians, #1)
(Red Hot Russians #1)

For Ages 18+ (Language, Sensuality)
Contemporary Romance

Carina Press -- February 2, 2015
Ebook, 250 pages
Read in March 2016

Goodreads -- Author Website -- Publisher Website


American pairs figure skater Carrie Parker’s Winter Games dreams were dashed when her philandering partner caused one of the greatest scandals in skating history. Blacklisted from competing in America, her career is over…until she receives a mysterious invitation and is reunited with the most infuriating, talented—and handsome—skater she’s ever met.

Russian champion Anton Belikov knows sacrifice. He gave up a normal life and any hope of a meaningful relationship to pursue his dream. And he’s come close—with a silver medal already under his belt, the next stop is the gold. All he needs is a partner. While he’s never forgotten the young American skater he seduced one long-ago night in Amsterdam, he never expected to see her again…never mind skate with her.

When what starts as a publicity stunt grows into something real between them, Carrie and Anton’s partnership will test their loyalties to family, country, and each other. With only a few months to train for the competition of a lifetime, can they master technique and their emotions, or will they lose their footing and fall victim to the heartaches of their pasts?

Sports, Beta Hero, Tormented Heroine, Pretend Relationship, Second Chance At Love

2016 Pick Your Genre Reading Challenge
2016 New To You Reading Challenge

I picked up Pairing Off during an Amazon sale and was attracted to it because of the figure skating plot.  I am addicted to the early 1990s movie, The Cutting Edge, so I had to read about a skating pair that ended up falling in love.  I am also really into figure skating as a sport though I am horribly uncoordinated on the ice.

The heroine of this book is Carrie Parker who was part of a pairs team full of high expectations.  Unfortunately, her dream was destroyed when her partner (and boyfriend) was caught sleeping with a judge and she was forbidden from competing for the United States ever again.  Figure skating is the only thing that ever made Carrie happy so she still continued to hold out hope for glory within the sport.  To achieve her dreams, she needs a new partner and ends up being asked to work with Anton Belikov, a Russian superstar.  Anton and Carrie decide to give this new partnership a try which is complicated by the fact that they were once anonymous lovers and there are new feelings starting to develop.

I liked the fact that, in this book, the heroine is the tortured one with the past while the hero had a more stable upbringing.  Carrie is difficult to like at first, but I believe that was by design so readers could understand how much her ex-partner's betrayal affected her.  I came to admire her mental strength to keep going for her dream despite all the odds being stacked against her.  Anton was very likable and a great partner for Carrie.  He is super sweet and protective without being overbearing.  He seemed to understand her issues early on and respected her hesitations.

I will admit that I was not sure about the romance at the beginning due to Carrie's emotional baggage and the fact that Anton had a girlfriend.  Thankfully, there is not cheating in this book and the love story actually doesn't start until the girlfriend is out of the picture which I appreciated.  I felt like Carrie and Anton worked well as a couple.  They are put in some difficult situations, but learn to trust and rely on one another.

The first part of Pairing Off focuses on Anton and Carrie getting to know one another as friends and partners.  There is a lot of detail about the rigors of figure skating training which was interesting.  It felt accurate to me, but I am just an observer of the sport so experts may have to weigh in on the finer points.  I liked the way that the story focused on their relationship moving from partners to friends before the romance kicked in.   The second half concentrated on their love story and their attempts to get to the Winter Games.  I, of course, liked the romance aspect and the journey they went on to compete.  I did not care for the over-the-top villain at the end.  They were in the perimeter for much of the book, but I didn't feel like the story needed their involvement.

Overall, I did enjoy Elizabeth Harmon's writing and I can tell why it was nominated for a RITA.  I am excited to try out the other books in the series.  Long-time readers of my blog will know that I am very picky when it comes to contemporaries, but I have really gotten into some of the smaller press romances lately which makes me very happy.  And Pairing Off is a good example of one that I enjoyed reading.


Pairing Off (Red Hot Russians, #1) Turning It On (Red Hot Russians, #2) Getting It Back (Red Hot Russians, #3)


  1. Ha. When I read the blurb, I thought to myself "this makes me think of The Cutting Edge." and then you mention it in your review. I always really liked that movie too. I'm not sure how much I would like this book but I'm glad you enjoyed it for the most part.

    Have you ever read On Thin Ice by Susan Andersen. I loved that book back in the day, although I haven't read it in ages. I don't know how well it holds up. But the heroine is a figure skater, and the hero is undercover. It's more romantic suspense. But also a lot like contemporary romance, too.

    1. I have not read On Thin Ice, but I will have to look into it. I have a thing for figure skating in books. ;)


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