Title: Pairing Off
Author: Elizabeth Harmon
Series: Red Hot Russians #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
A scandal-plagued American figure skater’s last chance at gold means pairing up with Russia’s sexiest male skater…who happens to be the first man she ever loved.
“The Cutting Edge” with a Russian twist.
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?
Source: Review copy from Barclay Publicity via NetGalley
Having already read and enjoyed the second and third books in this series, I was keen to see where it all began – and I’m so glad I did, because I really enjoyed this. If you love figure skating and like a slow burn romance with more than a hint of second chances – in more ways than one – then give this a go, because it’s great.
Carrie and Anton are a wonderful team. They’re both giving by nature and have spent their professional careers supporting their more flamboyant partners, denying their own strengths in favour of the others. I loved that they had a good reason for clicking on the ice, beyond their obvious chemistry.
And there’s plenty of that. Despite the fact that for most of this book Anton is essentially in a relationship, so nothing happens between him and Carrie, the attraction is clearly there. It sparks off the page and drew me into their tale. Admittedly, there were times when I wanted to shake Carrie and get her to open up to Anton, but she has her reasons and I loved the pair of them together.
I also really loved how Carrie has to adapt to living in Russia. It’s not easy or immediate for her, and I appreciated that even when she felt she had a certain grasp on the language, she still didn’t always understand everything that was going on.
There is a lot of conflict in this book, coming from multiple directions for various reasons, and some of it is quite angst-ridden. Both have issues with previous partners, both have pressures from their family, though Carrie’s play more of a role than Anton’s. It might have been nice for the “villains” in the book to have had a little more depth and a little more resolution to certain issues, yet on the whole it was just part of the wider drama that swept me along, until I stayed up late just to finish it because I needed to know what was going to happen.
All in all, this was enjoyable, engrossing and a great read. If you like figure skating, Russia and stirring romance that takes a while to reach happiness, then give this a go. It’s complicated and dramatic, and I enjoyed every moment.
Pairing Off is Out Now!
Visit Elizabeth Harmon for more details.