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?
Bubby: Art, especially painting, has always seemed like such a fascinating subject to me. Unfortunately, it’s only fascinating to me in theory. I can’t tell what’s good and what’s not, and I have no personal aptitude for art whatsoever. In fact, (art enthusiasts please skip to the next paragraph now) when I was in Madrid and my husband and I visited the Prado Museum, we barely made it through the first floor. I know, it’s a travesty. Art restoration is the same way. I think it would be so amazing to be an art restorer, but, again, no aptitude and certainly none of the required patience. But I sure like to read about it.
Sissy: And your point is?
Bubby: My point is that I was intrigued with A Portrait of Emily Price just from the book description, because of her profession. Then I realized that her love interest, Ben, is a chef and his parents run a restaurant, and I was hooked. Because I love reading about food, too. And I actually CAN cook, unlike painting or drawing. Happy, Sissy?
Sissy: I’m in a coma from your long-winded-ness, but I’ll survive. I actually think some art is exquisite and enlightening to my soul, but that just speaks to my elevated taste. I’m sorry you didn’t get that, Bubby. However, I like to look at and eat your cake, so you ARE an artist, Bubby. Truly.
Bubby: You’re just saying that so you can eat more cake.
Sissy: Nope. Got any cake? I want to point out that it is February, the month of love, and our offerings thus far are not your usual fluffy romantic fare. A Portrait of Emily Price does have traditional elements such as love at first sight and a whirlwind romance, but it also serves up a very complex storyline (or three), much drama and conflict, and some intriguingly deep characters. Much like real life romance, this tale takes a great deal of work before you get your happy ending. Even the happy ending is misted by some bittersweet life events, but again, that’s real life. We should write a whole post about Valentine’s Day and the reality of love, don’t you think, Bubby? Don’t let my comments dampen your enthusiasm for A Portrait of Emily Price, though. The realism is blended with lovely references to classic literature, moments of philosophic enlightenment, and, yes, sweet, sweet love. It is a thoroughly delicious mix.
Bubby: Maybe we WILL write a post about love for Valentine’s Day. Together, we’ve been married to our amazing men for over 50 years, so we should know what we’re talking about! There are so many types of love featured in this tale. The love at first sight of Emily and Ben, as mentioned above, several instances of unrequited love, and my favorite, the long-standing, deep and abiding love of Ben’s parents, Lucio and Donata. I hope my marriage is as rich and lovely as theirs. The descriptions of Italy were so detailed and picturesque. We must go there, Sissy! And the food…I wanted to try each of Ben’s attempts at making the perfect pizza. Now I’m hungry. A Portrait of Emily Price is a story with art and food as its central motifs, but ultimately the tale is about family and redemption and enduring love. Beautifully written, as always, by Kathryn Reay.
Sissy: We didn’t talk about the family secrets, lies and scandals that emerge (something Bubby and I are no strangers to. Knock on wood that no more will happen until after I’ve croaked.) At one point, main character Emily doesn’t know if she can handle all the drama that she becomes embroiled with through her new union, but Katherine Reay, in her unique and wonderful style, weaves us an ending that has us sighing with relief and reaching for our Valentine’s Day truffles. And a tissue. Another superb novel from Katherine Reay.