Can Stacey capture Max’s heart, or is her downhill romance destined for a crash landing?
This one came out in 1991, fairly late in the run of Bantam’s Sweet Dreams romance imprint, which I didn’t notice until I sat down to type this up: those covers remain stubbornly stuck in the 80s…
The Plot: …which I guess is suitable for a retrograde YA romance?
High school sophomore Stacey Hollis hates all things athletic, much to the chagrin of her BFF, Emily, who is dragging her off the couch and out to something called The Windmere High Three-Day Sports Carnival as the novel opens. Stacey would much rather spend her time reading her favorite hard-boiled detective novels featuring the studly private eye Dirk Hanson.
Emily finally gets Stacey to the Sports Carnival, where she springs the news on Stacey that she’s signed them up for an extremely complicated snowball-making relay race, along with her own boyfriend, John, and the high school’s star skier (???), who has the improbable name of Max Friar.
Emily and Stacey watch the big ski race and take the opportunity to throw shade at the girls’ ski champion, Gena Cross:
“It wouldn’t be so bad if she weren’t also the most gorgeous girl in school,” Stacey said, watching Gena’s tall, shapely figure walking away from the hill.
“You’d think she’d at least stay around to get her trophy,” Emily commented. “Or that she’d skip the race just this once to let somebody else win.”
Max is next down the hill, and promptly throws a tantrum when he reaches the bottom, because he didn’t do as well as he wanted to. But! When he whips off his ski mask, Stacey is in love L-U-V because:
Max looks just like I’d imagined the detective in that mystery would look! She compared Dirk Hanson and Max Friar in her mind. Max probably wasn’t as confident and daring as Dirk, except when it came to skiing.
Clearly, skiing and escaping from the clutches of two-timing dames is pretty much the same thing.
Max gives Stacey a ride home from the carnival, and she awkwardly forces an invitation to a classmate’s big party the next day.
But when the teens return to The Windmere High Three-Day Sports Carnival the following day in order to enter the big snowman building contest, Max doesn’t think that Stacey and Emily’s snowman with giant boobs is so hilarious:
Stacey did a double-take when she saw the effect. It was amazing how adding the ski cap and poles suddenly turned their weird little gnome into a funny caricature of Gena.
As funny as it was, however, Stacey suspected that Emily had gone a little too far. The angry expression on Max’s face confirmed it.
Max is constantly getting angry about things. About big ski races. About Stacey talking to her ex-boyfriend at the big party. Is this guy supposed to be the romantic hero?
Clearly, there is only one thing for Stacey to do: pretend to be a champion skier so she can go with Max on the ski club’s big trip to Vail.
WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG????
Well, for one thing, her parents are dubious:
“You better ask Dad yourself. I don’t think he’ll be too keen on it, frankly. It’s a dangerous sport, and you aren’t in any kind of shape to go on a trip that is so physically demanding. It is also very expensive.”
I mean, honey, aren’t you usually into your fat-girl hobbies like staying inside and being quiet?
Undaunted, Stacey draws Emily into her ruse and gets her to teach her the fundamentals of skiing on the school’s slope, a process that is described in such tedious detail that no boy could possibly be worth it.
But especially not this one:
Max called her often, but he wasn’t much good at talking on the phone. Stacey could tell he felt uncomfortable and he always kept his calls extremely brief.
Last night’s call had been the worst. Max seemed especially distant and aloof… For a while she wondered if he was trying to break their date. Maybe he’d changed his mind about her.
Despite the fact that Stacey doesn’t know anything about skiing terminology, or is a member of the ski club or ever goes skiing, Max seems to buy the fact that Stacey is an accomplished skier who can’t wait to go on the advanced slopes on the big trip. Even the fact that she’s baffled by Max’s huge breakfast of “eggs, potatoes, pancakes, toast, juice, fruit, bacon, sausage, yogurt and coffee, tea or hot chocolate” doesn’t raise any red flags:
Stacey stared at them. “How are you going to eat all that food?” she gasped.
“You know how hungry you get if you ski on an empty stomach,” Emily replied, kicking Stacey under the table.
At the ski lodge, Stacey and Emily find that they’ve drawn Gena Cross as a roommate, but she doesn’t stick around to unpack:
“Yep,” Cindy said without looking up. “She wanted to start skiing right away, she said that she had to meet some guy, a cute redhead.”
This news sends Stacey (who had been faking a headache in order to avoid actual skiing) into a rage, and she heads out to the advanced slopes to confront Max and Gena.
WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG????
Well, of course Stacey is waaaay out of her depth and goes crashing down the hill, with Max breaking an ankle saving her from crashing into a stand of trees on the way down. The paramedics cart Max off and she receives a stern lecture from Gena.
Later she tries to apologize to him in the lodge, but he’s not having it:
“Go away,” he said angrily, still looking at the fire. “I don’t have anything to say to you.”
“But I want you to know that I really love you and I never meant to hurt you. I’ve never felt this way about anybody before, and, well, I got so confused.”
She went on to explain how she hadn’t meant to deceive him in the first place, how many times she had wanted to tell him the truth about not knowing how to ski.
“Why didn’t you just tell me?” he asked.
“I was afraid you’d be angry. And then either something else always seemed to come up or it was a bad time…”
Max doesn’t speak to her for two weeks, until Emily and Gena finagle a reunion, and everything is fine, because who wouldn’t want to date a volatile and emotionally manipulative man-baby that you share no common interests with? But at least he looks like an imaginary detective. Good enough!
The girls finally decided that Stacey should wear her black miniskirt, black striped stockings with black lace-up ankle boots, and a black and white polka-dot cropped sweater. Stacey was worried that the outfit was a little too black, but Emily assured her she would look very chic.