Henry James is a difficult author to love, but an easy author to admire. Portrait of a Lady has many of the standard features of a 19th century novel. It has proposals, bad marriages, trips to exotic locations and sordid secrets. Also like many 19th century novels it is too long. James prose is good, but not mesmerizing, his psychology of his characters is excellent and the book is very clever. However, he can be a very dry author. Even when he is describing very passionate things there is something very dispassionate about his writing. One can admire his insight and his realism, but it just lacks that bit of magic that great novels have.
I enjoyed the book and its worth reading, but James adopted English reserve far more than the English themselves do and the book would be better, if it was not so reserved. He reminds me of both Eliot and Forrester, although he is not as compelling as either of them. James is worth reading, but he is still overrated.