I really enjoyed Grin & Beard It and wanted to jump into another Penny Reid novel after finishing it. I believe the first novel in the Winston Brothers series wasn’t available in my library’s app at the time, so I decided to try one of Reid’s Dear Professor stories instead and picked up Kissing Tolstoy.
Dear Professor, book 1
What do you do when you discover that your super-hot blind date from months ago is now your super-hot Russian Lit professor?
You overthink everything and pray for a swift end to your misery, of course!
‘Kissing Tolstoy’ is the first book in the Dear Professor series, is 46k words, and can be read as a standalone. A shorter version of this story (28k words) was entitled ‘Nobody Looks Good in Leather Pants’ and was available via Penny Reid’s newsletter over the course of 2017. (Goodreads)
I think of this as a novella because it has just under 200 pages. It’s about a young woman named Anna, who was set up on a blind date by her best friend. Somehow she got the wrong email address for the guy and doesn’t realize that the man she had met up with is actually her new Russian lit. professor. This she learns on her first day of class when the two realize that they’d unintentionally dated each other, lol!
This was a short, fluffy read, and I quite enjoyed it for what it is. I do wish it was a bit longer and the characters and situations more fleshed out because there was some potential for it to be a novel. I think we barely grazed the Russian professor dude’s (I forgot his name) backstory. There seems to be a lot more to him that could have made him a more solid character, and same, too, for Anna. I just don’t think we got to know the characters well enough.
Although I enjoyed what I read, I was not feeling that Russian professor dude. He came off as an ass and a bit controlling. And although he and Anna claim that he’s a great teacher, I think he allowed his lustful feelings for Anna to fail him there. That part where he ignores Anna in classes, which lead her to almost drop the class and mess up her impeccable GPA with a failing score, was not helping the student. But on the plus side, I do like how the two connect over literature and that Anna is a total book nerd.
“He didn’t call me. I didn’t call him. I got busy. I forgot about him. In fact, I forgot about dating a real life man. I started reading a really good book by a new-to-me author who wrote alternate reality versions of Brontë novels and spent the next few weeks immersed in her backlist. I dated her fictional heroes instead in an unapologetic phase of serial book-boyfriend polygamy.”
My cynical side was also happy (well, as happy as it could ever get when reading romance novels) that the story ended with more of a committed relationship than the characters professing to be deeply, madly in love with each other leading to marriage after only being with each other for a few weeks.
Although it’s not blatantly stated, I get the impression that this story is about an interracial couple. When Anna speaks about her parents, she mentions that her mom is from Nigeria, and I think towards the end there was a reference to her skin color. Otherwise, we just get hints that she has very curly hair. I mean, this isn’t a big deal, I just imagined her as Black the entire time I read, but I like pointing out when the main character in a story is a POC since the industry is now publishing more stories featuring such characters and books by POC authors.
Overall: ★★☆☆☆ ½
Yea, that rating is kinda low, but I just think it should have been a longer story because I’d rather have learned more about the characters. The story was entertaining and I enjoyed reading it, so I would recommend as well.