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Review: A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

by Katherine Reay

Working as an art restorer, Emily Price’s life revolves around fixing things, both in her work as well as in her personal life. Though her specialty is restoring other artists’ art, she loves to paint her own pictures and dreams of having her work featured in her own gallery show. When she’s sent to Atlanta for work, she meets Ben Vassallo, a native of Italy who’s visiting the states to check in on his estranged brother and to help revive his aunt and uncle’s restaurant. Emily and Ben quickly fall in love, marrying only two weeks after meeting one another. As they go home to Italy, Ben’s family is shocked by his whirl wind romance, offering a mixture of reactions from his sister Francesca’s delight, to his mother Donata’s outrage. Added to all this is Ben’s father, Lucio who’s health is declining. The older man takes a shine to Emily, telling her stories and offering her books that he thinks will help her. As she becomes acquainted with the family, Emily senses buried secrets that have driven a wedge between some of its members. She can’t help but meddle in the hopes that she can fix things. Yet not everyone wants her to fix their lives.

Having read Katherine’s other novels, I started this one wondering which classic novel would be the base for the theme. The further I read, the more I saw resemblances between Emily and Emma Woodhouse from Jane Austen’s Emma. I don’t think Emily was as self-centered as Emma, but she definitely had the match-maker, meddlesome quality. It was a little annoying at times, but I started to feel sorry for her, knowing that she felt like she had to fix everything all the time.

I really liked the Italian setting of this book, as well as Ben’s family. They were so life-like and diverse; it really set this book apart from Katherine’s other novels. The Vassallos were an imperfect family, but underneath all they’d been through, they still loved each other. Lucio was a sweet character; he loved everyone and really helped people to see things in new perspectives. He offered the perfect balance for Emily as she tried to settle into life in Italy, countering the anger that Donata didn’t try to hide. And the descriptions of Italy and the food were great; it was like a vacation in a book.

 Overall, A Portrait of Emily Price was a nice book, full of life with a beautiful setting. Fans of romance mixed with the arts, culture, and travel will love this book.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. 

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