Art restorer Emily Price has never encountered anything she can’t fix—until she meets Ben, an Italian chef, who seems just right. But when Emily follows Ben home to Italy, she learns that his family is another matter . . .
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?
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Katherine Reay is the national bestselling and award-winning author of Dear Mr. Knightley, Lizzy and Jane, The Brontë Plot, A Portrait of Emily Price, The Austen Escape, and The Printed Letter Bookshop. All Katherine’s novels are contemporary stories with a bit of classical flair. Katherine holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and isa wife, mother, former marketer, and avid chocolate consumer. After living all across the country and a few stops in Europe, Katherine now happily resides outside Chicago, IL. You can meet her at www.katherinereay.com; Facebook: KatherineReayBooks; Twitter: @katherine_reay; or Instagram: @katherinereay.
Read an Excerpt
A Portrait of Emily Price
By KATHERINE REAY
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2016 Katherine Reay
All rights reserved.
Piccolo. The restaurant matched its name — a tiny and delicate white stucco building with a short, neat brick walk leading from its front door to the parking lot. It's wilted green awning and window boxes filled with equally droopy flowers made it look worn and comfortable — completely at odds with the man flashing his eyes between his watch and me.
I pulled a couple inches farther into the parking space, dabbed on lip gloss, and hurried to the restaurant's front door. Joseph had already pulled it open.
"Thank you for letting me follow you," I said. "Chicago is nothing like this; it's built on a grid system. I had no idea Atlanta had so many trees and hills and winding roads ... But you didn't need to bring me to dinner. Not that I don't appreciate it." I pressed my lips shut. It was time to stop talking.
"It's your first night in town, and my aunt and uncle own this place. If you want to feel welcome in Atlanta, this is where you come."
I smiled. Despite the invitation, nothing about Joseph Vassallo felt welcoming. After knowing him for all of five minutes, I suspected it would take a good hair day, flawless makeup, and four-inch heels to comfortably stand next to this man. But today, after a thirteen-hour drive and only a Dairy Queen Blizzard as sustenance, I was the poker-playing-dog-set-on-velvet next to his Michelangelo, complete with lilting Italian accent.
He escorted me into the restaurant with a hand at the small of my back and imperious nods to the waitstaff. A petite, dark-haired woman darted across the dining room, and Joseph's mask dropped as his first genuine smile broke free.
"You didn't tell me you were coming tonight!"
He laughed, then bent and kissed her cheeks, one then the other in quick succession. "Surprise." He gestured to me. "Zia Maria, meet Emily Price. She's the insurance restorer from Chicago I told you about, renting studio space."
"Alone. So far to come." She clucked and bustled us to a table. "Sit. You need a good meal."
Joseph raised an I told you so eyebrow to me.
She soon settled us with water and a plastic carafe of wine, forbade us to order, promised us the chef's best, and left us. I looked around the restaurant, not knowing what to say and too worn to give it much thought. The silence stretched.
"Zia Maria said you had company."
My head spun back. To a man kneeling at the table. Oh my ... There are two of them.
Fully aware I must look like a bobblehead, I couldn't help myself. Back and forth, and again, back and forth ... There were two of them. Both tall. At least the one kneeling beside me looked as though he must be as tall as Joseph. His long fingers gripped the edge of the table. Yes, tall. And handsome. Just that same kind. The right kind — the dark, lean kind with a four o'clock shadow because five o'clock would be too de rigueur. The guy you watch walking down the plane aisle, hoping he'll sit next to you. Yet he never does. He sits right behind you — with his wife.
And what was even better, this guy had no clue how handsome he was. You could tell by his eyes. Eyes never hide and never lie. His danced with laughter and no awareness at all that I was melting right before him. But the other? I glanced over and studied his eyes a moment. Joseph knew.
"You must be brothers?" I asked them both.
Joseph lifted a single brow, but its meaning wasn't so clear this time. It felt almost as if the question required thought. "He's six years younger." His English was so smooth — all the right words and contractions, yet eking out the curves of his native Italian.
Joseph faced his brother. "Ben, meet Emily Price. Her insurance company is renting her a worktable in my studio for the next couple weeks." He glanced back to me. "House fire in Buckhead, yes?"
"Yes." I nodded and turned to Ben myself. "I do insurance restoration. This house has some damaged walls, a mural, and other pieces I'll put back together."
Ben's smile called out an answering one from me, except I could feel mine stretch too far from ear to ear. And his hands ... One reached out and held mine. "We are both visitors. You at Joseph's and me here. I have the better deal. I get to play in a kitchen." The last part was lobbed to his brother.
"As long as you keep your play to the kitchen." Joseph's murmur killed my grin.
Ben's grip tightened as he shot his brother a look. I did the same.
"No. Not her." Joseph drew back, surprised. He flashed his gaze to me. "Not you. Sorry." He returned to Ben, who sported a You stepped in that all by yourself grin.
I was right. There were two of them.
Joseph continued, tilting toward his brother. "You should have said no. You say you know, but you don't. You're meddling in things you don't understand."
I thought of my sister, Amy, who often accused me of the same thing.
Ben's tone brought me back to the conversation. "Beppe, stop. Your Emily does not need to hear this."
Joseph's jaw flexed. What was already square became chiseled and pulsed right below his earlobes. "Joseph." To me he whispered, "Beppe is short for Giuseppe. And he won't stop using it."
Ben winked at me. "We start again. Ciao, I am Benito. Joseph is my brother." He emphasized the name, flattening out the vowels like an American.
"And I'm Emily." I smiled all over again.
Still holding my hand, he addressed Joseph. "Hai una bella ospite stasera"
"It's not a date. I just told you. She's a restorer renting space. She arrived this afternoon and doesn't know anyone in town." Joseph thrust out his palm as if tempted to push his brother over. "Stop baiting me."
"I am sorry." Ben bounced up, withdrawing his hand from mine in the process, and leaned on the table. He flexed his fingers across the checked tablecloth as if he had something important to stay. "Let me recommend something special tonight for your non-date." He addressed me. "Ho convinto zia Maria per pemettermi di fare zuppa di spinaci e ricotta."
I worked the words through my head, knowing I was changing them, altering them, but praying I understood them.
Joseph waved his hand as if ridding us of a pest. "Fine. Two."
Ben's eyes stayed focused on mine, one brow reaching into his hairline.
"Yes, I'll have that too," I said, without fully grasping what we'd ordered. "Thanks."
He nodded and walked away.
The silence turned oppressive.
I looked around again, searching for a comment, and landed on, "Your aunt and uncle's restaurant is lovely."
Outside, the white stucco and faded awning had given a rumpled cottage look, almost as if it belonged in a small English village, but the inside was quintessential Italian — at least my impression of it. Dark green walls, red-and-white-checked cloths, red plastic votive holders with matching breadbaskets, and small bottles of vinegar and olive oil. Wine served in clear plastic carafes. It felt like family had to sit close, share dishes with their stories, and the garlic would linger on your clothes and in your hair as you carried home your leftovers.
"Hmm ..." Joseph's eyes followed the trail mine had just completed. "Ben comes for a visit and they pounce on him, thinking because he works at our family's restaurant back in Italy he can help, he can make all this better." He rattled on, each word overlapping the next. "And Ben agreed. He didn't even know them before he arrived, and he agreed. He made all these plans to change everything, from the menu to the decor. It will end in disaster." He stopped and stared at me and, I suspected, remembered that we'd only just met.
"Why did they ask or why did he agree?" Joseph sighed. "Piccolo is slowing down. Look around — even your first time here you must sense it. Vito and Maria are older now, tired. There is no vita, life, here anymore, and if they want to sell, it won't bring enough. It could, though. It's good space and in a good neighborhood. As for Ben ... He's not the guy to do this kind of work. He's a chef, a dreamer. At least as a kid that's who he was. Always eager to help and jump aboard any sinking ship. But righting the ship takes another personality."
"But —" I clamped off my protest. Who was I to have an opinion at all? Just because a guy has a gorgeous smile and dancing eyes ...
After a few moments the silence lay too heavy again, and I wondered why Joseph had invited me to dinner at all. He had no obligation. Covington Insurance had merely rented me a workstation at his studio for two weeks, nothing more. I had a job to do, a Residence Inn suite to sleep in, my books, my paintings, and a Netflix account to keep me occupied in the evenings ... I had no need for awkward dinners with a surly Italian in the midst of a family feud.
I asked, "What did you order for us?"
Joseph's eyes took on a flash of alarm. "I'm sorry, he set me off and I assumed you understood. Soup with spinach and ricotta. He'll bring it with a salad and bread; it will be enough."
"Oddly, I'm not that hungry. You would think I would be, with only a Blizzard today."
"A blizzard?" His arch tone killed my enthusiasm and my explanation. I nodded, as if he had questioned my choice rather than my meaning.
The food soon arrived and not the guy pulled up a chair. I wasn't sure what kind of guy Ben was that precluded his ability to help his aunt and uncle, but he was a demonstrative guy, hands waving like a cyclone. He was a happy guy, eyes lit with laughter even when Joseph's tone — I couldn't catch many of the words — conveyed a reprimand. He was a kind guy, hands slowing and voice softening as he tried to draw me into the conversation while easing his brother's clear annoyance.
He was exactly what I had always envisioned my ideal that guy to be. Actually, the whole list, fully formed at age eight, started and ended with Italian — all the rest was icing.
I sat quietly and watched Ben's hands move. They were strong, with long fingers, not tapered, but blunt at the nails. And they flew, moving at the rate of his words. I tried to catch the gist of them, but his Italian eclipsed his English and I missed much of it. Something about pizza, the restaurant closing to paint, not closing to paint, and Papa.
I heard irresponsabile and lavoro, meaning "work," but was certain I'd missed the mark as leprechaun and swirl made no sense. Clearly checking out Rosetta Stone a few times from the library had not made me fluent.
The conversation drew to a quiet close as Ben's hands dropped to his lap. "So cheposso ..."
I know I can, I translated in my head ... then, "Aiuto," we whispered together. Help. He knows he can help.
I clamped my hand over my mouth; I hadn't meant to say it aloud.
Ben seized my hand. "You understand."
I could only nod. Yes, I understood. I got it-not all he'd said, but what he was trying to do. He wanted to give his aunt and uncle something more. A chance. A better life. Joy. I wasn't sure any of it was possible, but I appreciated that he believed it. It was so clear, so beautifully clear, that he believed it.
Ben nodded at me as if an entire conversation was passing between us and we sat in perfect agreement. He then turned back to his brother, perhaps not realizing he still held my hand captive beneath his. "I can help, Joseph. Let me do what I know."
Joseph looked between us as if stumbling upon something unexpected. He didn't reply.
Ben looked down at our hands. His eyes widened with embarrassment and he pulled his away so fast I felt an instant chill. "Mi scusi." He sat back, crossed his arms, and smiled slow and broad. "You speak Italian?"
"Unpo." I tapped my fingers together. The whole moment flustered me, so I stood — and knocked back my chair. Ben lunged to catch it. I added, "Ho bisogno di usare il buco."
"You do speak un po." Ben compressed a smile. "You mean il bagno. Bathroom."
"What did I say?"
I felt my face flame as I strode to the front of the restaurant. "Zia Maria" intercepted me with nods and a guiding hand on my arm, pointing to the ladies' room.
"You are welcome, my dear."
Moments later I pushed back through the door and into the small lobby to find Joseph waiting by the hostess stand.
"We can go now." He held open the front door. "We shouldn't have gotten into it with you here."
"It's all right. I didn't understand most of it."
"You caught enough, and I apologize." He stepped into the warm night, then away from me. "Welcome to Atlanta, Emily, and I'll see you at the studio tomorrow morning." He crossed to his car, and I stood next to my station wagon.
"Thank you for dinner," I called after him.
I stood by my car a few minutes, tempted to go back inside. There was something about that guy — not only what he wanted to do, but who he was and how he listened to his brother's rantings and insults with patience, with those bottomless brown eyes that didn't carry resentment or indignation, but instead, gold flecks, barely contained laughter, and even joy.
And although he seemed playful-sending a few winks my direction when Joseph got really heated — I somehow knew he wasn't flighty. He meant what he said. He wanted to help his aunt and uncle, and he would. It was that, that drive to fix what was broken, that resonated with me.
I finally dropped into my car with another ear-to-ear grin. Welcome to Atlanta.CHAPTER 2
My eyes ate up the empty studio. I hadn't stepped inside the day before, as Joseph had met me on the sidewalk and immediately invited me to dinner. But what a space ...
Atlanta Conservation, Inc., was a dust-free conservator's Nirvana — the likes of which I'd never seen. Cement floor, thirty-foot ceilings, metal ducts, polished pipes — nothing soft, nothing that allowed a speck of dust to float, much less land. And each workstation outfitted with LED, ultraviolet, and infrared lighting capabilities, freestanding Leica F12 I microscopes, Decon FS500 vents on retractable arms, state-of-the-art carbon-handled tools, a heated suction table in the center, and some unknown and intimidating-looking machine poised against the far wall. And the solvents — vials of raw elements that required a chemistry background to pronounce, let alone mix in the tall glass beakers.
It was everything I dreamed restoration could be when we first met at age eight. My father took me to the Art Institute of Chicago's Caravaggio exhibit, and rather than look at the paintings, I spent the entire afternoon trailing a tour of grown-ups on a tour called "Maintaining the Masters." The leader, not a docent, but a graduate student with a passionate, melodic — and Italian — accent, mesmerized me. He didn't talk about the subjects of the paintings. Instead, he told the story behind them — the processes of preserving them, identifying everything that attacked them over time — moisture, age, microbes — and all he and his kind did to keep art safe. I hung on his every word, certain he held the secrets and the tools needed to fix things, make them whole, and keep them healthy.
It was the last outing I remembered with my dad before he moved out of our house. And no coincidence that I believed that man's dictums about paintings would serve as well as a manual for life. We could keep things together by putting all the pieces in place and gluing them there. If you worked hard enough and were diligent, anything could be fixed.
I began scouring garage sales in my neighborhood for trinkets. In high school, I read every book the library held on art criticism, restoration, and design. I even checked out the Rosetta Stone's Italian courses over and over — somehow knowing Caravaggio's Italy was the Asgard of art and if I knew its secrets all would be well. And I was good at it. My mind could see how the pieces fit, my fingers were nimble enough to get the minutest shard of porcelain back in a broken figurine, and I was creative enough to use anything that came my way to make the process more efficient, clean, and stable. In college I found it a great way to make extra money. Any other ideas I held or embellished about that man's looks and accent over the years were probably fed around this time by a steady diet of romantic comedies and art documentaries.
Excerpted from A Portrait of Emily Price by KATHERINE REAY. Copyright © 2016 Katherine Reay. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In A Portrait of Emily Price, Katherine Reay tells the story of a young woman who looks at the world and sees what needs to be fixed. When she meets Benito Vassallo, a man who understands “the proper speed of things, the proper weight of life” without “[filling] it up with clutter”, she is thrown into the chaos of both love and deep soul searching. As a reader who enjoys a great deal of young adult, fantasy thrillers full of espionage and weapons—such as books by Leigh Bardugo and Sabaa Tahir—I especially appreciated the peace and focus on stillness within the pages of Emily Price. Even as Emily’s outer conflict is documented as she travels to a new home in Italy and finds resistance when it comes to acceptance, her vulnerable inner turmoil is laid out beautifully in front of the reader without all the gun smoke and clash of swordfights. As I read, I found myself wanting to fix the relationships before discovering the full stories. In my own life, Emily Price led me to consider how I so often look for an immediate, seemingly practical solution rather than looking to be a supporter and comforter. To soften the hard questions considered, Emily and Ben’s relationship is filled with sweetness. Their attraction is immediate and their unconditional love for one another only grows throughout the book- often leaving me crush-dazedly re-reading their conversations and cursing my now heightened expectations from the male gender. Penned with a skill level matching Ben’s charm, A Portrait of Emily Price challenges readers to be still and listen; to create from the heart; to let go when it seems impossible. It also leaves readers with a sweet book-ending and perhaps an endless stream of questions to ponder. Are we too focused on our own perception, too distracted by the proper function of the world to see or even attempt to understand others? Are our introspective moments too dulled by the haze of oven smoke or blurred by paint strokes? And, last but not least, how on earth will we ever put this book down?
Thanks to the publisher and author for providing a copy of this book. From the first Katherine Reay novel I read, Reay’s writing voice satisfied a reader’s need in me. I can’t define exactly what it was. With the first words in Dear Mr. Knightley, I knew Reay was an author I’d follow as long as she published. Each book has been a joy to read. A Portrait of Emily Price is no less impressive. A painter of sorts herself, Reay’s palette draws beautiful characters. Reay plays down physical beauty (although there are some rather gorgeous characters included). Instead, she fills them with a beauty from within, a spiritual and soulful beauty. A strong-willed or temperamental character demands description showing the depth of his/her emotions. Descriptive settings seem to come easy for this author. It is as though Reay uses wide brush strokes to share the country or region of choice as a backdrop. In Emily Price, we see the hills and small towns of Italy. Imagine narrow lanes for driving and arches almost too narrow to drive even a tiny Fiat through. Picture ancient architecture rich in its workmanship and steeped in history. Readers of Reay’s novels already understand her handling of romance between her characters. For those new to this author, her works are often inspired by the stories and characters developed by Jane Austen. From there, she nuances her own characters and storyline into a contemporary tale. For Jane Austen fans, it’s almost like double dipping. In Emily Price, readers find a soft yet moving love flowing between two people. The bottom line in this romance is one of compromise. We find a couple supportive of each other, love working together, and yet allow each other room to breathe. This is symbolic of true love. Yet, this doesn’t mean there aren’t bumps in the road. It is the quality and strength of Reay’s writing which make her books so pleasurable. These two characteristics, plus her meticulous research, draw me to each new book launched. It has been my privilege to be a part of her Peeps Team supporting her as the launch of Emily Price drew near. My recommendation is a solid “you should read this book.” Emily Price reads so well and each page turn takes you into an amazing story. Be prepared: Once you start, you can’t stop.
If you’re read any of Katherine Reay’s previous books, you know about her unique way of weaving classic fiction throughout her stories. A Portrait of Emily Price takes it to the next level not only giving readers bits of Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and James Joyce but it also takes readers on a journey through the world of art. Fascinated by how things work, Emily Price is the go-to fix-it girl for the insurance company she works for. While in Atlanta on a job, Emily runs into the Vassallo brothers and agrees to help the younger brother, Ben, with fixing up his aunt and uncle’s restaurant. As the two spend time together, Emily and Ben’s relationship blooms, and when Ben asks Emily to travel to Italy with him, she agrees without hesitation. But once in Ben’s small village in Italy, Emily finds herself out of place. Ben’s mother does not like her, the house is always crowded and more often than not, she’s lost in the conversations going on around her, and Ben’s busy at his family’s restaurant. It doesn’t take long for Emily to learn that instead of fixing Ben’s family, she’s breaking it. When she uncovers a family secret, she’s not sure she belongs there at all. From Atlanta to the Italian countryside, from literature to art, Reay paints Emily’s life in beautiful words. What I love about her books is that each of her characters is unique, likable but flawed, and we get to take the journey of discovery with them. For Emily Price, the lesson that has to be learned is that she can’t fix everything. ***The publisher provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.
This book was a fun ride to Italy with some amazing characters. I enjoyed following Emily in the changes she is making in her life. This book grabs your emotions on the first page and does not let go. In fact this story stays with you after you are done reading. The setting of this book was great for me as I have wanted to travel to Italy for a long time. For me I felt like the characters were real live people. The author has a way of developing them that makes you feel as if you really get to be friends with them. I felt like this was a feel good type of book and by that I mean the more you read it the more you feel good. There is so much that I liked about this book that it is hard to put into the right words. So I am just going to finish with this is one of the best books I have read this year. I look forward to reading more by this author.
They say you should never judge a book by the cover, but I think the cover of this book compliments the story very well. It’s a perfect mix of art and countryside, which represents the very basic elements of this wonderful novel. Katherine Reay hit it out of the park (as usual) with A Portrait of Emily Price. I know hardly a thing about art, much less art restoration, yet Reay invited me into the field and informed me on all I would need to know. The same thing goes for the rich Italian culture that the story fixates on (in phases)– she explained just enough to make me appreciate the family and banter, but not enough to make me focus too much on the culture itself. The story travels through familial bond vs. tension, whimsical romance, diving into the unknown, rejection, reconciliation, and breaking down facades. It’s an encouraging and inspirational tale, albeit fictional, about what life is really about and the journey to find oneself while also working to break down others’ walls. I would absolutely recommend buying this book. Great job, Katherine. :)
Hello all, and welcome back! It's time for another book review, and trust me, you won't be disappointed! I recently finished reading A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay, and I have two words for you--HOLY WOW! To say I enjoyed this novel would be an understatement. To say it was perfect, amazing, flawless, and otherworldly would also be an understatement! I am literally at a loss for words, friends! I suppose I better start at the beginning--the cover. I have always adored the artwork on Katherine's novels. In fact, it's what drew me to Dear Mr. Knightley in a Barnes and Noble some years ago! But this cover is phenomenal! There are very few covers these days (especially in the Inspirational Fiction genre) that aren't campy or over the top. Emily Price has the tailor made cover! When I close my eyes, I feel like Lucy Honeychurch touring the Italian countryside, skipping through fields of poppies. And that's just the cover! Like a beautiful person, having an attractive outer shell is nice, but even better is a lovely soul. This book has one of the loveliest souls I have ever beheld. (I know what you're thinking, "Can books have souls?" Roll with me here!) The meat and substance of this book is incredible. This is no fluff piece of chick-lit, although I do love me some good chick-lit. This reads like a map of someone's life. There are all the high points--the good times, the times that make me smile so wide my friends ask me what I'm so happy about, and the laughter, oh the laughter! But there are also the valleys--the times that had me on the edge of my seat, rooting for Emily to make the right choice. I totally felt one with Emily Price. Meeting her was like looking in a mirror and seeing all my flaws and all my points of beauty (this coming from an extremely insecure girl). I learned through Emily that we all have our moments of pain, but we also all have our moments of beauty. And the interesting thing? There are more moments of beauty than you think. You just have to look closely, take out your restoration equipment, and be patient to see the results. And boy, the results from Emily Price were astounding. I'd like to thank the author, Katherine Reay, for allowing me to be a part of her "peeps team" for the release of this novel. All the opinions in this review are my own, and I was in no way required to give a positive review. Pick up A Portrait of Emily Price wherever books are sold on November 1, 2016.
Wow - another enthralling read from the talented Katherine Reay. I loved this multi-layered "portrait" of a flawed and sensitive restoration specialist. Emily Price seems to be able to fix almost anything damaged by time or disaster except own broken heart. She has no confidence in her own artistic abilities or family relationships...but that begins to change when she meets Ben Vassallo. Emily has always had a soft spot for all things Italian, and she falls hard and fast for this handsome chef from Montevello, Italy. After a whirlwind courtship of only two weeks, they marry and return to his homeland. (This might seem strange to some, but my maternal grandparents did the same thing!) Here in the words of art gallery owner Olivia Barton, "..it's like (her) heart was looking for a home" in Tuscany, and FOUND it! Abandoned by her biological father, Emily finds a true friend in Ben's father, Lucio. As she struggles to find her place in her new extended family, she begins to find her true gift in creating and restoring not just art, but relationships. She also (literally) "dis-covers" that she isn't the only one with a painful past. In revealing the Vassallo family's secrets, foundations are shaken that will make or break her new marriage. I couldn't wait to finish this book, but was sad when I did (and immediately reread the last chapters for good measure). Reay's trademark meticulous research makes the world of Italy and art restoration come alive for her readers. I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, and I heartily recommend this delicious read.
A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay is the second book I have ever read by her, the first being Dear Mr. Knightly. Both are stand-alone novels, and both are by far some of my favorite contemporary fiction novels of all time. Katherine just has a way of writing endearing, heart-wrenching stories that are so REAL. She pulls you in and makes you feel like you are transported into the world of her characters, and I really felt like I could FEEL what Emily and Ben were going through. There was so much emotion in this novel, honestly I cried through quite a bit of it, but I LOVE those kinds of novels. First of all, I have to admit, that I am totally obsessed with Italy and all things Italian now. Like, where can I find a private jet and a free trip to Italy? Because I’d be on that plane in a second. Katherine describes Italy in such a way that I really felt like I was right there, and when I finally looked up from by book I was very disappointed to find that I was not actually in a little Italian villa. I still really wish I was, honestly. Also, I must admit that now I am dying to read the rest of her novels even more, because I loved this book even more than the first one I read by her. Now I have to finish the rest! My only problem is that there aren’t enough, I am very much looking forward to finding out when she will finally be releasing more novels. Emily and Ben—and even Joseph—had such wonderful stories, with heartbreak and emotion and real pain and sorrow, but also with love and new beginnings, that captivated me all the way until the very end. I wanted to know the truth behind all of their secrets, I was dying to see how they would find their redemption, and how the story would end. Each one had their own demons they were dealing with, and I love the way that Katherine resolved them all. I honestly devoured this book, I read almost the entire story in one sitting, because I just couldn’t put it down. I had to get to those resolutions. I had to know how the story would end. And, there was absolutely nothing in this book that would make me want to put it down, it really was one of the most perfect stories I have ever read. Therefore, I can happily give this novel all five bookshelves, and a place on my all-time favorites list. I highly recommend this book, and any of the other stories Katherine has written—my sister has been reading them as well and right now Lizzy and Jane is her current favorite, so I highly recommend that one too. I will be reading it myself soon hopefully, so I’ll let you know what I think. Anyway, I really loved this book and I am sure you will too, so go check it out! (This review is from my blog, spreadinghisgrace.blogspot.com)
Forgiveness & love don't always come easy Looking for a fluffy romance set in Italy? Head elsewhere. Looking for a story about the true messiness of life, love, and family? Then stop right here, A Portrait Of Emily Price will be the perfect read for you. This is the third Katherine Reay book that I've read, and believe me, it comes close to tying with Dear Mr. Knightley as my favorite. It is a beautiful, poignant, and sometimes bittersweet story of a young woman learning about love, life, and about family. She has a lot to learn about what makes people act and react the way that they do and at times I saw shades of myself in Emily – and not always flattering ones. With each page I found myself totally immersed in her story, and even more, her journey into being the person she was meant to be and towards the love and family she's always wanted. A Portrait Of Emily Price was a simply wonderful read. One that I actually finished much faster than I thought possible because I just couldn't seem to put it down. Katherine Reay has a definite must-read and a real winner in this lovely American-Italian romance! (I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are entirely my own.)
A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay was a nice, slow comfort read. Like Reay’s other books, this one had quite a few literary references along with several interesting facts about art restoration and rich scenes of Italy. The story follows art restorer and master of all fixing-upper, Emily Price on a journey of self-realization as she falls in love and learns how to deal with her family, both her sister and her in-laws. The characters were very real and warm- or cold, in the case of the mother-in-law, who was one of my favorite characters- and all very alive as they interacted with each other. I was especially interested in the mystery that had torn several family members away from each other, and the way it unfolded. This story is a must-read for anyone looking for something a bit slower paced and a bit foodie. I received a copy of this book for free through the Fiction Guild. I was not required to post a positive review and the views and opinions expressed are my own.
From beginning to end, really great book!
After a whirlwind courtship (one week) Emily marries Ben, who is visiting from Italy. The following statement from the back cover of the book made me think twice about wanting to read A Portrait of Emily Price : "Emily interferes with everyone and everything around her, alienating Ben's tightly knit family." Family conflict is not what I enjoy reading in a book; but, this book was well written, kept my interest, and was thoroughly enjoying.
I want to give this a 4.5 rating, but am not sure how to do so on here... It is, as usual, a great book by Katherine Reay, but my -.5 would be too much "kissy" stuff in the beginning. ;) (at least for me!) I don't normally read a lot of romance books, Christian or not, so if you are like me, I encourage you to persevere past all of that! The story is really great!! I especially love the ending!! I also found the restoration work (Emily does this) to be quite interesting. I always like to learn about something new, even in a fiction book. I am not going to say any more about it because I am afraid that I will give away too much of the story! I will just say, read it!! :)
This is only the second of Katherine Reay's works that I've picked up. I was surprised to find how deep some of the themes in this one got, as I remember the first book I tried -- The Bronte Plot -- was cute but as far as meat in the story, didn't really get too deep past surface level coziness & fluff. Ben was quite the charmer and will likely have the "hopeless romantic" type readers of all ages swooning, even if just a little bit. :-) I liked that Ben had layers to his character. He could be a charming flirt one minute but the next could just as easily show some serious emotional turmoil, trying to hold the family together. It was also nice to see that his love for Emily was not rash or merely physical, he was honestly always about her well-being, making her as comfortable and appreciated as possible at all times. Who's not going to want to get to know a character like that! I also awwed over the relationship between Ben's parents, Lucio and Donata. Donata could be a fiesty one, a bit of a prickly exterior, but around Lucio? A big ol' bowl of melted butter. And Lucio always seemed to know just how to round off her sharp edges when Donata had her claws out. The sense of warmth, patience and love that radiated between them was a real joy to experience. The symbolism of the sunflowers was the standout take-away for me. I love the idea of the field of girasoli (Italian for sunflower), where Ben explains to Emily that one has to allow them to turn to the light on their own. If you force it, you snap the stem and potentially kill the flower. All in all, I'd deem this a fun read for lovers of Italian food, culture or landscape. Author Katherine Reay does a nice job having her characters make connections between the layering of art and the layering of culinary flavors, as well as the overall importance of always coming back to that strong family bond. You're bound to have a good time getting to know Ben's clan! :-) FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book & requested that I check it out and share my thoughts. The opinions above are entirely my own.
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. 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. 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. 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.
A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay is of those books that encourages the reader to sink down into a comfy chair and savour the time spent lost in a dreamy world of Italian food and culture. But the story starts state side, where art restorer Emily can fix any damaged or aged art work to it’s former glory - even better than it was originally. But if only life could be so easy. Meeting Chef Benito, who is out from his native Italy helping his family run restaurant changes the course of her life forever. A whirlwind romance ensues - and Emily finds herself newly married and winging her way across the ocean to Italy to meet the parents and the rest of the extended large Italian family. To say this is a culture shock is a gross understatement. What ensues will test Emily’s love and devotion to her new husband as his family (some more than others) struggle allow her into the fold. I loved A Portrait of Emily Price - with it’s subtle nodes to Austin’s Emma, Katherine Reay has again modernised and created the charm and brilliance of the Austin novels as she has done previously. The vivid descriptions of both Italian food and country side zing off the page. A brilliant tale to be enjoyed more than once - like a good Italian pasta.
Family ties bind. They also gag. In a Portrait of Emily Price, the big question seems to be how all the different relationships will support or sabotage Emily's chance at an exciting new life. Emily sets out for a new start as an art restorer in Atlanta, but is swept off her feet into an avalanche of a romance. This upends her life and prushes her pell-mell into a different life than she expected. When reality sets in, Emily must decide who she is and where she belongs. Reay writes in such a style to carry the reader along with almost wild abandon, then dismay, then melancholy and shock. All this is affected as the reader easily empathizes with Emily's predicaments and feels her emotions as his/her own. Reay leads the reader back and forth through the gamut of emotional turmoil, and it took me a while after finishing to return to inner equilibrium. What I would have liked to have seen in the book would be a stronger emphasis on faith. While faith is mentioned, neither it nor prayer seem to play a major role in characters' decisions. This was a fun read, and provided to me as a complimentary copy by the publisher and NetGalley. I have freely chosen to leave my own, unbiased opinion.
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.)
Katherine Reay books are my favorite to take on vacation, so I can read them without interruption! This was my favorite of hers to date, read on planes and under a beach umbrella in the Gulf of Mexico. But the whole time, I could feel the dusty stones of Italy under my feet and the warmth of garlic and tomatoes in the air. There is an undercurrent theme in the book about appreciating the basic elements that make up the masterpiece (i.e. colors in art and ingredients in food), and this book did the same. Each word appeared to be artfully chosen to tell a beautiful, sweeping story. Along the same lines, another theme deeply resonated with me, and that's how the presence of love can do magical things with art and cuisine when included in the recipe.
A Portrait of Emily Price By Katherine Reay Emily Price has been sent to Atlanta for an emergency restoration - a house and a family have been affected by a fire that resulted in water and smoke damage. But while she's in Atlanta Emily learns her own life is in need of restoration, but when she meets Benito (Ben) Vassallo her life takes a totally unexpected turn. Within two weeks of their first meeting Emily and Ben have married and are on their way to his family's home in Italy. But life isn't how Emily envisioned it ~ happily ever after isn't the immediate result of saying I do. Fixing things gives Emily a feeling of satisfaction but in Italy she has come across something she can't fix - herself. But when the Vassallo family confronts a long hidden secret that finds Emily center stage she determines that before she can go further she must first find herself. But will finding herself force her to leave what she has come to hold dear behind or will she embrace it more fully? A Portrait of Emily Price is another delightful exploration of life and personal discovery from Katherine Reay. Everything is seen through Emily's eyes and her transformation as a person is seen through her artistic endeavors. But as Emily (along with the reader) discovers life can't restored to the original, the pains and joys make us who we are and as one character says they must be endured. THe one thing I like with Katherine Reay's books is that they all are standalone books so when one reads one the story is complete. Though I have to be honest I would love to have the stories continue on just to see what happens next. The setting is contemporary though there are references to classical literature and art that help Emily discover herself. This is a book that ends on an up-note so that the reader is left satisfied and looking forward to the sunset (reference to several scenes in the book). I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher through the Fiction Guild, no expectation of a review positive or otherwise was expected. All opinions expressed are my own.
Katherine has such a way with creating stories that woo me in. One fun aspect of this book was that it was like a return trip to Tuscany. I could see and imagine the whole setting, the characters were richly drawn, and the storyline sweet yet angst filled. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, just like I knew I would. It brings Katherine Reay's beautiful writing and story-telling to the front. It's a story of trying to control everything and falling into a place where you realize you can't. It's a story of art and how it affects us. Of how the need to fix broken things doesn't always work. It's the story of launching into an adventure and doing the hard things, of working to build relationships with others through all sorts of barriers. But ultimately it is a beautiful story of how much God wants to take our cracks and distorted places and bring full healing and restoration. It is a truly beautiful story that includes the benefit of a side-trip to Tuscany. Where's my plane ticket?!? Can't wait for my next Katherine Reay read.
I received this book for an honest review. The story was a little slow at first but once you get into it, it is wonderful. Emily's insurance company sent her to Atlanta to do a restoration project on a house that had a bad fire. Most of the work she would be doing is a mural in a young girls bedroom and other things that needed to be done in the house. She was being set up at a wonderful restoration office to do off-site work. When she gets there the work these people do is wonderful and awe inspiring. Joseph runs the office and is testing her. Emily loves to paint but she can't seem to get the eyes correct in her paintings or get the movement right in flowers. Joseph takes her to get something to eat at his aunt & uncles Italian restaurant and his brother Ben is visiting to help restore their restaurant and to work on his pizza recipe. Ben & Emily work on getting the restaurant back to were it needs to be, but in the process they fall in love. She finishes her work restoring the house, and knows that she has to make decision about finding a job. Joseph offers her one, but Ben offers her love. She & Ben go back to his home village in Italy and she walks into uncovering the family secret, that has torn a family apart for a lot of years. The ending is wonderful. It reminds how strong family ties and old fashion values have caused problems within families.
Favorite Quotes: And handsome... The right kind – the dark, lean kind with a four o’clock shadow because five o’clock would be too de rigueur. The guy you watch walking down the plan aisle, hoping he’ll sit next to you. Yet he never does. He sits right behind you – with his wife. He was exactly what I had always envisioned my ideal that guy to be. Actually, the whole list, fully formed at age eight, started and ended with Italian – all the rest was icing. I dropped each into a jar, reminding myself with every plink that I did first-class work – the grownup equivalent of I think I can. We piled into an impossibly tiny car, smaller than a smart car, if any American could imagine that. Ben then dashed like a lunatic onto the Roman roads. Cars were everywhere, careening between lanes, zipping at high speeds down frightfully narrow streets, dodging pedestrians, and climbing hills in switchback turns. She articulated my name slowly pulling each syllable long, paying special attention to the center mal. It stretched forever. In Italian, I knew it meant ‘ache’ or ‘evil,’ and I figured her emphasis was no coincidence. Francesca was a beauty, delicate and quiet. She had the raven hair of her mother, but a more delicate jaw line and nose. It made her feel like a whisper, while Donata, to me, personified a scream. My Review: I enjoyed this story start to finish, a new bride finds herself in a foreign country and stranded in the home of a cold and angry mother-in-law, hmm, something I could most certainly relate to. In addition to those complications, there seems to be a silent eighteen-year family feud that no one talks about or seems to understand. Emily, who is an art restorer, liked to be working or fixing something. She was good at fixing things, however, her attempts at fixing people seemed to be more problematic than helpful, for all involved. This was my first experience reading this talented scribe and I adored her smart and witty style. Katherine Reay has devised an ingenious, lushly detailed, and well-constructed story. Her delivery was clever, crisp, and devilishly amusing. I want to read every sentence she has, or will ever, put to print.
“A Portrait of Emily Price” is a mixture of a love story, Italy, art, true love, and redemption. Emily Price is an art restorer, a talented at that! If it’s broken, Emily can fix it. Whether it’s from art, children’s toys, coffee machines, and so forth, Emily knows how to fix it while making it even more beautiful than it was before. She soon learns that not everything can just be super-glued together. When she flies to Italy to live with her husband and his family, utter chaos ensues. I know, that’s a vague description of the book, but this is a must read that I believe it gives a general idea of what the book is about without spoiling. I LOVED this latest novel. Emily can fix anything, but she is realistically flawed and I loved her as well her big chaotic Italian family. Ben is Italian, swoon-worthy, super sweet, and a romantic. He was perfect for Emily. I loved all of Emily’s new family, but I especially loved Ben’s father, Lucio, who plays a huge role in Emily’s life and points out to her a truth that only he can get through to her. The characters became like close family and friends. They were beautiful despite their messiness. As the plot continues, things get really messy. The vivid descriptions of the art in the book was amazing. Normally I struggle with envisioning the art described in literature, but I could see Emily’s paintings as if I were looking through her eyes. The descriptions were not long-winded or boring, but beautiful aspects to the story. I’d love to see an artist make those paintings described a reality. I also learned a lot of art that I hadn’t known. Sometimes random facts can take away from the story be out of place like a textbook, but that isn’t the case here. They were a perfectly fun fit. Oh and don’t even get me started on the food. I felt like I could smell and taste it.I also loved the Tuscan setting and felt as if I were actually there. Someday, I will see the thing. Katherine Reay never failed to include famous literature quotes. These were my favorite and I found myself adding many of the titles to my to-be-read list on Goodreads. I couldn’t help but squeal with excitement when the Emma reference appeared for that is my favorite novel. While I enjoyed the characters, the art, and the setting, I really enjoyed the faith elements in the story. Faith and redemption were major themes. They were not done in a watered down preachy kind of way. They flowed through the story perfectly. It was amazing to watch Emily’s faith become real through the story. The biggest lesson she learned was that while she may not be able to fix everything, she can let Jesus fix everything. I highly recommend this one! Just pull up a chair, get comfortable, grab a cup of tea and just read. Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and have not been compensated for it in any way. All opinions expressed are my own.
I received a free electronic copy of this novel from Netgalley, Katherine Reay and Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review. Thank you all, for sharing your hard work with me. This novel is much deeper than most romance novels, yet - Yeah! - contains no graphic sexual scenes. Katherine Reay takes us into the hearts and minds of her protagonists, and the soul of the families and communities involved. I also loved the glimmers of the things that draw me to Italy - the food, the light, the history, the food. This is a book for all ages - suitable to teens as well as adults. It is a book I am comfortable recommending to friends and family.