Italian food and the the Persephone myth

>> Wednesday, April 12, 2017

TITLE: A Portrait of Emily Price
AUTHOR: Katherine Reay

Emily is an art restorer who works for an insurance company. On assignment in another city, she meets the Vassallo brothers when her company hires her some workspace in the studio belonging to one of them. But it is other brother, Benito, who captures his attention. Ben is visiting his brother from his hometown in Italy, and Emily finds him as fascinating as he seems to find her. And as they spend time together helping redo his aunt and uncle's restaurant, they fall for each other. But Ben is supposed to return home to Italy in only a couple of weeks...

Unfortunately, this book never really gelled. There's some good stuff, don't get me wrong. I was interested in Emily and her relationship with her family. I was interested in Ben and the hint of family secrets. I was interested in the setup of Emily following Ben to a small town in Italy. What I wasn't really interested in was the romance.

The problem was that Ben didn't work for me as a character at all. I read over half the book, and Reay never succeeded in making him real. It didn't seem to me that she even tried. Ben was this idealised image of a sexy Italian... lots of calling Emily "bella", lots of exuberance, lots of waving arms around when he spoke (with no contractions, of course, which is supposedly adorable). Actually, he seemed a bit like an excitable toddler. There was nothing that made him an individual. When he and Emily started exchanging 'I love you's and decided to marry, my reaction, which I'm guessing was supposed to be 'awww, how romantic!', was more along the lines of 'WTF??'.

Not for me.

MY GRADE: A DNF.




TITLE: A Tangled Web
AUTHOR: Mercedes Lackey

This novella, originally published in the Harvest Moon anthology, is part of Lackey's Five Hundred Kingdoms series, which I love. No books in that series have come out since 2011, so I've been hoarding this one. Unfortunately, it was a disappointment.

What I love about this series is the subversive, twisty take on fairy tales, and the very fun way in which Lackey uses the concept of the Tradition, an amorphous force that guides people's actions into paths that fit within the traditional tales of their culture. Lackey has these characters called the Godmothers, who understand the Tradition really well and know just how to manipulate it for the good of the kingdoms they protect.

The problem was, not much of what I like about the series was really present here. Greek mythology instead of fairy tales, fine, no problem with that. But Lackey told the story pretty straight. Apart from bringing in two characters from the previous book, visiting from Norse mythology, the Persephone story proceeded right as is traditional, with very minor changes. There was nothing particularly clever, nothing particularly surprising. The Greek mythology characters felt, well, mythological, in that they were paper thin and had no human personalities, unlike the fairytale characters in previous books. There was also very minor manipulating of the Tradition, all in a way that felt much too easy (and no Godmothers!).

Also, the story felt like it was cut down from a novel-length version. We're moving along fine, at a normal pace, seeing all the scenes we'd expect to see, and then we reach a point where we jump a few months and Lackey has a character go "this has happened, and this, and that, and the other, and we need to deal with it", and off we go again. It didn't fit.

MY GRADE: A C+. This was a bit of a waste of time.

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