A Portrait of Emily Price

A Portrait of Emily PriceA Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay
Genres: Contemporary
Published by Thomas Nelson on November 1, 2016
Pages: 368

 

Publisher’s Summary: 

Emily Price—fix-it girl extraordinaire and would-be artist—dreams of having a gallery show of her own. There is no time for distractions, especially not the ultimate distraction of falling in love.

But Chef Benito Vassallo’s relentless pursuit proves hard to resist. Visiting from Italy, Ben works to breathe new life into his aunt and uncle’s faded restaurant, Piccollo. Soon after their first meeting, he works to win Emily as well—inviting her into his world and into his heart.

Emily astonishes everyone when she accepts Ben’s proposal and follows him home. But instead of allowing the land, culture, and people of Monterello to transform her, Emily interferes with everyone and everything around her, alienating Ben’s tightly knit family. Only Ben’s father, Lucio, gives Emily the understanding she needs to lay down her guard. Soon, Emily’s life and art begin to blossom, and Italy’s beauty and rhythm take hold of her spirit.

Yet when she unearths long-buried family secrets, Emily wonders if she really fits into Ben’s world. Will the joys of Italy become just a memory, or will Emily share in the freedom and grace that her life with Ben has shown her are possible?

A Portrait of Emily Price is Katherine Reay at her best. The tone and main character are reminiscent of Dear Mr. Knightley, the realistic situations akin to Lizzy and Jane, and the international aspect nods to The Bronte Plot. I was happy to see her return to the overall tone that she brought readers in Dear Mr. Knightley. Though they were very different characters, Emily’s first-person voice had me enchanted in the same way that I was with Sam. While the family situations were complex, there is a beautiful simplicity in the way that things occur. There was never a moment where I willingly put this book down, and I was always eager to pick it back up.

There was never a moment where I willingly put this book down, and I was always eager to pick it back up.

Usually whirlwind type romances don’t do much for me. I struggle with the realism and can’t get into the magic of it all. But from the moment that Emily met Ben, I felt like their biggest cheerleader! Yes, I was wondering how this was all going to play out, but I was rooting for them all the way. The author completely pulls it off – Ben is total book-boyfriend material. I did appreciate the realistic way that, despite how quickly their relationship moves, it was still a back and forth of misunderstanding and miscommunications, but also a sweet rendering of a new marriage. For readers that are not as big a fan of romance as myself, never fear – although this might be Reay’s most romantic story yet, Emily’s personal growth and a poignant family story take the prime spot in the narrative – and what a joy it is to watch it all unfold. The secondary characters are genuine and not to be overlooked. I particularly adored the relationship between Emily and Ben’s dad, Lucio – his character over all is one of the most gorgeous portrayals of fatherly love that I’ve read in a long while.

For readers that are not as big a fan of romance as myself, never fear – although this might be Reay’s most romantic story yet, Emily’s personal growth and a poignant family story take the prime spot in the narrative – and what a joy it is to watch it all unfold.

Several aspects just make this story – that of art and Italy – and food! Emily’s job as a restorer is fascinating to read about, and I also loved watching her grow in confidence at an artist as well. The setting of a small Italian village is so picturesque and full of charm – from the cozy library in the family home, to the cobblestone streets of the village, I fell in love with it all. Ben’s charm is never as beguiling as the times he is in the kitchen, although the story paints an accurate picture of the precarious nature of the restaurant business, but more importantly, how food, family and tradition intertwine. And while there might be times where metaphors are overused in stories, or perhaps too many are used at once, here the combination of art restoration and creation provide a gorgeous comparison for the events of the story.

While the faith elements are a lighter thread throughout the first part of the story, the latter half is suffused with a beautiful message of forgiveness and grace.

My most favorite aspect of this story is how Emily proves to be a huge catalyst for change in Ben’s family, all the while trying to maintain a flimsy control of her new life in Italy and discover just what her roll is as a member of it. As Emily uncovers a painting in the local church, the secrets of Ben’s family are uncovered as well. While the faith elements are a lighter thread throughout the first part of the story, the latter half is suffused with a beautiful message of forgiveness and grace.

I am always so pleased to read a Katherine Reay novel, but even more so when it’s as poignant and lovingly crafted as A Portrait of Emily Price. Highly recommended.

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