Book Review: Kissing Tolstoy by Penny Reid


Kissing Tolstoy

by Penny Reid

November 7th 2017, Cipher-Naught

Goodreads, Amazon, Book Depository

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 I’ve read by Penny Reid, and while it wasn’t my favourite romance of all time– actually, I don’t think I have a favourite romance book, which is sad– I definitely enjoyed it.

Our main character, Anna, is a biracial 21 year old, and I honestly really liked her. She’s got a lot of heart and I found her general awkwardness in social situations relatable. Anna is dedicated to her studies and is a big achiever, and I just think she’s well rounded– her friend Emily is, too, which I loved. Emily is supportive but blunt, and I could see a lot of their friendship in mine and one of my closest friend’s. There’s a lot of self-respect  built into her character from the start and ultimately her decisions made in the relationship felt realistic and grounded in treating herself as kindly as possible, and I really love that.

“Yes. Truly. He’s tepid, not hot. If he can’t see how fucking awesome you are, if he can’t put himself on the line for you and go all in, pursue you like you deserve to be pursued, then- really- is he worth risking your heart?”

Luca was… boring. I liked parts of his character, and he has great banter– don’t yell at me for using that word– with Anna. Their discussions about Russian Literature felt informative while not making me feel stupid for having no deeper knowledge of the texts being discussed, and I love that part of their relationship. But, ultimately,  I didn’t like him, and I don’t think he deserves Anna. No shitty parents or troubled childhood can make up for a character being boring to me, especially when the threat of those troubled pasts don’t really amount to anything other than an excuse for strange behaviour.

While I did like the writing towards the end of the book, it took a while to adjust. It’s very jokey and doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is nice, but there’s also an aversion to swearing for absolutely no reason– Leather-fracking-pants? Just say ‘fuck’ already before you start sounding like a 5 year old who can’t say no-no words. There are also just basic phrasing and grammar mistakes that made it confusing to read at points.

One of the biggest parts of the romance is the age-gap between the two. While it’s not terribly written– trust me, I’ve read some bad handling of age gaps larger and more problematic– the power imbalance is grander than this novel makes it out, a lot more of an issue than just ‘waiting it out until the end of class’. Her lecturer makes her so uncomfortable she ends up skipping class at some points, which– that’s an issue! It’s a power imbalance! He takes her places and doesn’t explain where he’s taking her, one of the biggest red flags for me, and I don’t think that part of their relationship is at all realistic. The Kill Bill sirens were sounding in my head more than once.

“I didn’t go to class on Wednesday.

Instead, I went to the movies. Alone.”

While I’d recommend this for fans of romance and those who enjoy age gaps and student/teacher dynamics, I also found issue with parts of this book that got in the way of my enjoyment, particularly the writing. Luca is boring, but Anna has a great voice, and there are moments of genuine kindness and calm between the two that I enjoyed.

Content warning: age gap, discussions of controlling parents and unhealthy families, graphic descriptions of sex, alcohol binge scene


If you like this review, you might like:

🍎Review: THREE ROMANCE REVIEWS: Kulti, The Hating Game, Sunstone

🍎Review: 3 [NEGATIVE] BOOK REVIEWS: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, The Deal, The Strain


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One thought on “Book Review: Kissing Tolstoy by Penny Reid

  1. Pingback: Call Me Daddy: A Valentine’s Day Book Review! – seasonsofwords

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