A Portrait of Emily Price Review
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Contemporary romances often tend to fit into the usual formulas; if you’ve read a couple, you generally know where they’re heading. But author Katherine Reay’s A Portrait of Emily Price is a completely unexpected romance—one that gets the romantic part over with quickly before heading off in a new direction.

The story begins in Atlanta, where art restorer Emily Price has been tasked with restoring valuable items in a home that was devastated by fire. On her first night in town, she meets Benito Vassallo, a chef who’s in town to help with his aunt and uncle’s restaurant. The two begin a whirlwind romance—and just weeks later, when it’s time for Ben to return to Italy, Emily does the unexpected: she marries him and returns home with him. But instead of beginning a new romantic adventure in Tuscany, she’s soon caught up in the secrets and hurts and heartbreak of her new family.

If A Portrait of Emily Price were the same old chick lit, Emily and Ben would meet at the restaurant and then set out to build a relationship. They’d have their ups and downs, their misunderstandings, and maybe a breakup along the way—but they’d end up with their Happily Ever After. But A Portrait of Emily Price isn’t the same old chick lit. Instead of dragging out their courtship, it’s incredibly quick—and, just like that, they run off and get married. And instead of focusing on the challenges of a new marriage in a new setting between two people who hardly know each other, it shifts its focus.

The love story between Emily and Ben is sweet and romantic—but that’s just the beginning. While their story is the foundation of everything that follows, its role changes when the newlyweds arrive in Italy. And what starts out as a romance between two very different characters turns into a bigger, more thoughtful story about learning to accept the messy parts of life instead of always trying to fix them.

Emily is a likable character with her own history of heartbreak. She’s created a neat, ordered life for herself, and she’s turned her obsession with fixing everything into a career. But Ben and his family change everything. They’re loud and passionate, and they don’t all love having her around. And her need to fix things only creates bigger messes for everyone. As she fumbles through her first weeks in her new life, readers will relate to her well-meaning bumbling, and they’ll fall in love with her and with the characters around her while learning some valuable lessons from them in the process.

A Portrait of Emily Price is a sweet and often beautiful novel—so much more than the usual chick lit. It’s a light and breezy read, yet it’s moving and insightful and surprising, too—a novel worthy of an afternoon in your favorite reading chair.

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