August 18, 2015

Mini Review: Pairing Off by Elizabeth Harmon

Three words: Russian figure skaters! If that's not enough for you, here are some random thoughts that I hope will convince you.

Cover description: On the top half of the cover a man and a woman in winter gear smile at each other and are about to kiss; on the bottom half of the cover and a pair of figure skater are on the ice. The background is red.
The good:

The leads, Anton and Carrie, are smart, kind people who know what they want and work hard to get it. The hero is sweet and vulnerable; the heroine is self-aware and driven. Despite what the prologue suggests, theirs is a slow-burn romance that’s built on mutual respect and friendship. There are lots of interesting details about figure skating and the sport world, yet they are so well integrated into the plot that they never feel obstructive. I don’t know if the author has ever been to Russia (I haven’t, so I’m not a good judge of authenticity) but the story is incredibly atmospheric and evocative. Last but not least, the first half of the book is filled with amazing tension which makes for an emotional and gripping read.

The bad:

This book has an “other woman” and she only functions in one mode: mean. The hero is in a relationship with her for a huge chunk of the book. He doesn’t cheat on her with the heroine, but he’s obviously conflicted on account of her being so damn evil! There’s some mild effort put into justifying her actions, but frankly, those efforts were about making him look good rather than adding nuance to her character.

Remember how I said that the first half of the book was basically amazing? Well, the second half takes the wrong detour into Melodramatic Land with an overnight stop at the “Unnecessary External Conflict” Motel, which, once I stopped yelling “what is going on?!?”, made me a bit sad. But I was so into the romance that I didn’t care… much. The plot could have used a lot of trimming, though.

Grade: 3/3.5 but if I were to base it on enjoyment alone, I would give it a strong 4
Purchase: Amazon

The blurb is misleading, so don’t believe all it says!
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?
Pairing Off by Elizabeth Harmon
Carina Press. February 2nd, 2015.


  1. Yup. That about sums it up. I really quite loved it. It really made me want to wander the streets of Moscow with Anton & Carrie.

    1. Me too! I really liked how much the city was a part of the story.

  2. This review is absolutely in line with my feelings. The section of the book up to the Olympics was one of my favorite books of the year (even with The Other Woman, I was hoping she was going to get redeemed somehow), but then the third act felt like it was from some other book. I loved the characters, the romance, and the thick setting, though.

    1. When I was reading that first part I kept thinking that this was one of the best contemporaries of the year, but then my balloon deflated a bit :-/ I still enjoyed it a lot, though. And I also kept expecting TOW to be redeemed or maybe even get her own book, but after the epilogue there's little chance of that, and the next book isn't about her.

      Ooh! I also liked Anton's friends! I forgot to mention them, but there were some interesting couples there that I wouldn't mind reading more of.

  3. this one sounds quite interesting. I know you mentioned it in our email thread. Now, I need to check it out.

    Villains always seem so one-dimensional. sigh.

    1. I think you will like it, so give it a try ;-)

      I did like the way the hero saw his relationship with the ex, so from that POV it was a nice, nuanced portrayal.

  4. Brie, thanks for the review and I'm glad you enjoyed Pairing Off. Loved your comment about Anton's of them, men's singles skater Misha, is the hero of the next Red Hot Russians book, due out in 3/2016. Thanks again.

    1. Ack! I haven't checked the blog's email in a couple weeks, so I missed these comments :-(

      Thank you for the lovely book, and YAY! There will be more books. I can't wait. Thanks for letting me know ;-)

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Ok I'll look into this. Lets see if I can get it...


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