First things first -- that cover. If that doesn't scream Tuscan countryside, then I don't know what does. As happens, I was first drawn to this book by the gorgeous cover. I've read one of Katherine Reay's novels before, The Brontë Plot, and really enjoyed it so I had high hopes for this one. All of her previous novels have connections to classic literature -- I can never resist a good novel with allusions to other famous works.
In A Portrait of Emily Price, our protagonist is a art restorer. Emily meets Ben, a handsome Italian man who easily captures Emily's heart, and in the span of a few weeks he proposes, they marry, and Ben whisks Emily off to Tuscany. This was where I hit my first snag with the novel. It's not that Ben was that classic Italian heartthrob, or that Emily found herself quickly falling for him, but their extremely quick romance felt utterly shallow to me. In context, Reay managed to explain why it felt necessary (to the characters, that is) but I still felt like rolling my eyes at their too-quick courtship. Emily and Ben arrive in Tuscany, where Ben's rather intimidating mother is (not surprisingly) unimpressed with his new American wife. Ben's father, however, is kind and welcoming. As Emily tries to navigate her new family and her new country, she turns to creating art. Her art plays a big role in unveiling and helping to heal the family's longstanding secret.
I put down the book about halfway through -- after Ben and Emily arrive in Tuscany, but picked it back up again a month later because I wanted to see it through to the end. I certainly felt more pull from the second half of the book, when the focus is on the family's secrets and how their relationships change as Ben's father grows close to death. I just couldn't bring myself to believe in the "true love" between Emily and Ben. That can be a hangup that I have when reading contemporary fiction, but if it's not something that phases you, I'd recommend this book for the scenery, art, and the descriptions of food.
Bottom Line Rating: 3/5
Title: A Portrait of Emily Price
Author: Katherine Reay
Publisher: Thomas Nelson 2016
Price: $12 on Amazon
Source: Net Galley
Note: Top Shelf Text was provided with a copy of this text from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!