Pairing Off- The Cutting Edge with a Russian Twist
By Elizabeth Harmon
If the line “Toe pick!” sounds familiar, you’re probably a fan of “The Cutting Edge,” one of the best figure skating movies ever made.
Released in 1992, the film starred Moira Kelly and D.B. Sweeney as a pairs figure skating team who fall in love while training for the Winter Olympics. It has great chemistry, great banter, and early-1990s big hair and shoulder pads. It also has a few inaccuracies that make skating fans cringe. Suffice to say, “The Pamchenko” wouldn’t be allowed in Olympic competition.
Regardless, it’s one of my favorite movies, and something that inspired me to write a figure skating romance. And while both “The Cutting Edge” and “Pairing Off” are about pairs figure skating duos that fall in love while chasing Olympic gold, there are also some pretty major differences, including…
The Heroines– While “The Cutting Edge’s” Kate has focused exclusively on skating since childhood, in “Pairing Off,” Carrie’s background as a synchronized skater and a flyer on the cheerleading squad give her a surprising advantage when she becomes a competitive pair skater in her teens. Kate’s a prim New Englander, Carrie’s a Georgia girl, the daughter a country music one-hit wonder, and a man who wants to be president.
The Heroes– All-American Doug in “The Cutting Edge” is a former Olympic hockey player who initially dismisses figure skating …until he tries it. Though Moscow-born Anton played hockey as a child, he’s been training and competing as a figure skater since his early teens and knows it’s a lot more than sequins and sparkle.
The Coaches– Kate and Doug have gruff but loveable Anton Pamchenko. Carrie and Anton have gruff but loveable Galina Borisova, and not-so-lovable Ivan Shustov, aka “Ivan the Terrible.” Pamchenko creates a stunt move to help his pair clinch the gold. Ivan the Terrible devises a stunt to help his pair too, a risky off-ice maneuver that brings Carrie and Anton closer then they ever imagined.
The Olympics– Kate and Doug compete for Team USA at Albertville, while Carrie and Anton skate in Lake Placid as members of Team Russia.
The Russians– In “The Cutting Edge” they’re still Soviets and with the exception of Pamchenko they’re cold and calculating. In “Pairing Off”, they’re everywhere and range from surly and sneaky, to caring and kind-hearted, as fish-out-of-water Carrie adapts to life in Moscow.
The Endings– Spoiler alert! “The Cutting Edge” never reveals how Kate and Doug place in their Olympic competition. (Though we can guess!) “Pairing Off” does, but to find out…you’ll have to read it.
Title: Pairing off by Elizabeth Harmon
Red Hot Russians Series Book One
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Word Count: 96,000
American 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 the United States, her career is over…until she receives a mysterious invitation and is paired 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 be confronted with their past…never mind share the ice with her.
When what starts as a publicity stunt grows into something real, 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?
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“Speaking of Lake Placid…we ought to consider a new costume designer. That yellow thing you wore at Cup of China?” Carrie grimaced.
Anton looked up and grinned. “Is that why you didn’t want anything to do with me that night? Because of my ugly outfit?”
“It’s hard to take a man seriously when he’s dressed like a giant flower.”
He glared in mock offense. “I was not flower. We were birds.”
“Well that makes all the difference, doesn’t it? Anyway, the guy Cody and I used did nice classic looks. No feathers. No sequins. I could see you in something dark and simple, maybe open in the front. Definitely short-sleeved to show off your…” Her eyes feasted on his gorgeous upper arms. What the man did to a faded T-shirt ought to be against the law. He grinned as he caught her looking. Again. Her face burned and she gave a guilty smile. “…hard work.”
Anton shook his head. “For competition, no short sleeve, no low cut. I would have to get waxed. I hate wax.” He pouted like a little kid about to get a booster shot. “It hurts.”
“You’re such a baby! I can’t believe you’re afraid of a little manscaping.”
“Do you like it?”
Well. Obviously she wasn’t the only one who’d been checking out their partner that day in the pool. Then again, he’d been involved with a skater for years. It wasn’t like he’d never seen a Brazilian before. Her cheeks flushed again. “Only in pair skating would I have a conversation like this with a straight guy I hardly know.”
“What do you mean, hardly know? You know about my family, where I grew up, what music I like, what sports I like, what I studied at university. And now you know how I feel about man-wax.”
“Fine, you win. No man-wax.”
He leaned back, his arms crossed, regarding her with narrowed eyes. “Seems I’m the one who hardly knows you. Every time I ask something, you turn around and ask me instead. Why do you do that? Why do you want to be so much a mystery?”
She rested her chin on her hand and smiled across the table. “What difference does it make?”
He started to answer, then stopped. Shaking his head, he laughed. “God, you are aggravating!”
I love stories that give a fresh take on classic themes, and feature characters and locations not often seen in romance. Give me a lovable, if less-than-perfect heroine, a gorgeous hero with a heart of gold, take them a little off the beaten path and I’m a happy girl.
I read a variety of genres– romance to horror and just about everything in between. I am a member of Romance Writers of America. I have worked as a freelance journalist for a number of local publications and am a contributing writer to Romance Writers Report.
When I’m not writing, I love to ice skate, bike ride, hang out at the beach or on my front porch. I love vintage homes, adventurous cooking, spending time with my family and traveling.
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