The Portrait of Isabella Simmons (5 Stars)

Typical of Ben Kesp, his keen eye for minute detail is also prevalent in this fascinating novel. This thriller enthrals the reader from beginning to end as the characters' individual histories begin to unfold, with a mysterious backdrop that amplifies interest and arouses much curiosity. As always, Ben Kesp's exquisite use of diction and imagery, and the inclusion of a few twists surely contribute to this. Indeed, this work is testimony to his versatility as a writer. I thoroughly like Johanna Cahill, a strong and calculating woman who lets nothing stand in her way. Her character evolves throughout the novel, and towards the end, the reader is to expect a few surprises. I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys reading good fiction. Well done Ben Kesp! Another excellent piece under your belt!

Reviewed by Moira (Goodreads) 

The Portrait of Isabella Simmons (5 Stars)

This book is ultimately the story of the depth of a mother's love for her son and how far a mother will go to protect her child.  The story is a page turner with every page bringing suspense, grief, sadness, and mystery.  The imagery brings the story to life, you can visualise the portrait that Francesco has painted. You can see the houses along the streets in Dublin.  You can smell the fresh bread at the market in Galway.  I was Johanna, I felt her pain and fear.  I was Francesco and felt his passion for art and life. A must-read, but be careful, you are warned, you will not be able to put it down until you finish.  I didn't. Excellent storyline.  Very well written. Most enjoyable. 

Reviewed by Nora. 




This novel had certainly been challenging and its two main protagonists were both very contrasting characters with complex issues. I do not love one over the other, as each is so different and they both have amazing characteristics and traits. Both characters go on an emotional journey of self-discovery and more importantly, self-forgiveness. 


After the murder of her father, Johanna Cahill is forced to flee her home at the age of sixteen but the moment changes her life in a way she did not understand until many years later when she is faced to deal with personal and emotional issues that she always clung to.  Determined to make a good life for herself, a gift she believes she is entitled to, she has become blind to the consequences of her actions in order to attain it. Did she deserve what she got in the end? Perhaps, or it can be argued, due to her recognition of her actions in her life, this in itself is her way of absolving her sins.


Francesco Romano, on the other hand, spent his youth as a fanciful playboy, painting the rich and aristocracy around Italy, Malta and Spain.  A lover of men, he is seduced by Isabella Simmons, the daughter of the English Governor to Malta that would have dire consequences on his life.  He never could have imagined after spending more than twenty years in jail, Francesco would end up under house arrest by his seemingly benign captor, Johanna Cahill.  Francesco has become a bitter man and rightly so towards the end of his life.  Crippled with arthritis, during his stay, he rediscovers his love of art through his muse, the young Bernard Cunningham, heir to the Cunningham Empire. Through his journal writings, Francesco releases the past, the harsh life and emotions he has kept hidden away allowing him once more to pick up his paintbrush and live through his passions.


The Portrait of Isabella Simmons  

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