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?
“Perhaps fixing things wasn’t about the end product – it was, oftentimes about the process.”
When preparing to read Katherine Reay’s latest novel, A Portrait of Emily Price, it’s tempting to view the book as two parts connected by a single character.
And in some ways, this is true.
The first half focuses on Emily’s restoration work in Atlanta and her whirlwind courtship with Ben as she helps him renovate his aunt and uncle’s restaurant on the side. This is romance and exhilaration and art geekery, as well as the poignancy of Emily’s work restoring a mural damaged in a house fire. The second half of the book takes place in Italy and is richly layered with tension and awkwardness as Emily tries to find her place in Ben’s family and his life.
But if you mine beneath the surface, you soon discover that A Portrait of Emily Price is a masterpiece of subtle beauty. Everything leading up to Italy is setting the stage for the renovation about to take place in Emily’s heart. And while Emily nearly alienates herself completely from Ben & his family as she inserts herself (uninvited) to their problems, wielding her restoration instincts for the better or the worse, it’s really the transformation in her own life that stands out.
The faith element in A Portrait of Emily Price is part of the setting in some ways, but Reay excels at weaving grace-filled truth gently and subtly throughout the story. The mural in the church and the story behind it, combined with Emily’s realization that Jesus is the only true Restorer of brokenness … these are the marks of truest beauty in this novel.
Bottom Line: The setting of Tuscany comes alive in Katherine Reay’s latest novel, A Portrait of Emily Price. The sights, the smells, the TASTES, the people – each element artfully presented and tangibly described. The romance may be a whirlwind in Atlanta but it’s in Italy where it find roots and ripens most sweetly. Above all, though, this is a novel of family and faith and finding your place in each. Keep your tissues handy, but rest assured you’ll be smiling plenty too!
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 4 stars / Love it!
KissingBook Level: 3 / Will forget to breathe on occasion
Katherine Reay has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries — who provide constant inspiration both for writing and for life. Katherine’s first novel, Dear Mr. Knightley, was a 2014 Christy Award Finalist and winner of the 2014 INSPY Award for Best Debut as well as Carol Awards for both Best Debut and Best Contemporary. She is also the writer behind Lizzy & Jane and the The Bronte Plot – all contemporary stories with a bit of “classics” flair. Katherine holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University and is a wife, mother, runner, former marketer, avid chocolate consumer and, randomly, a tae kwon do black belt. After living all across the country and a few stops in Europe, Katherine and her family recently moved back to Chicago.
More Books by Katherine Reay
What about you? Have you ever had something restored? An art piece, a photo, a quilt, etc.?