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REVIEW: Tribute by Nora Roberts

Dear Ms. Roberts:

book review Usually your single title books work for me and work well. It’s the single titles, not the JD Robb books or the categories, that made me a fan. Unfortunately, I never quite grasped hold of the characters in Tribute. I like Cilla well enough but Ford, well, I did not lose the creepy stalker vibe he gave off in the beginning.

Cilla McGowan is a former child star whose been ducking the limelight for several years. Her greatest desire is to get her contractor’s license and make a career out of flipping houses. Cilla’s former husband, and now good friend, got her into the business. Cilla manages to wrest her grandmother’s farm from her neurotic mother (an A list wannabe) and begins to renovate the farmhouse as a start to her business.

Ford Sawyer is a graphic novelist who is famous for his “The Seeker” series. He lives across the road from the Hardy farm. His first impression of Cilla is she is a vandal and he ambles over to warn her off. When he finds out she is legit, he’s pretty taken with her and begins to dream up a character for another series based on her. He begins watching her, surreptitiously, through his binoculars to sketch her in action. He Googled her, studied photographs of her, rented movies of her, wished she was naked for professional reasons, of course.

He then asks her to pose for him. And while Cilla is supposed to be a character who wants to put all notoriety aside, she ultimately agrees. When Cilla so easily forgives Ford for the intrusion, I was surprised and thought that it was very inconsistent with her media shyness. I don’t know that her efforts to stay out of the limelight would be helped by becoming the template for a new Ford Sawyer graphic novel.

Cilla’s attempts to renovate her new home is marked by vandals and attempts on Cilla’s life. Cilla’s grandmother is the famous Janet Hardy who died a tragic death. Cilla finds a cache of love letters that Hardy exchanged with a local man wherein it suggests that Hardy was impregnated by said man at the time of her death. Not everyone in Shenandoah Family appears to have warm memories of Janet Hardy.

I found Ford to be overbearing at times. He demanded instead of asked and took offense over the strangest things. Such as when he finds out that Cilla is roughing it in the renovated house with a sleeping bag. He reacts in such a way that it’s like a personal affront to him. Ford just grated me wrong. I wondered if his strong actions were to show that someone cared for Cilla for the first time. Everyone else in her life had shown a marked lack of interest. She was neglected by her mother, father and even grandmother. Ford is the intense opposite.

I have to mention how much I disliked Cilla’s dad. He abandons her to a crazy, neurotic mother and goes off to create a new perfect family and Cilla is full of forgiveness for him when he offers to paint a room. I thought Cilla’s response was quite odd. I couldn’t figure out whether she lacked any emotional depth or whether she was simply so inured to being neglected that any affection was worthwhile. She didn’t come off that way. She came off was well adjusted.

I found the Cilla/Janet dream sequences that began many of the chapters to be odd. I couldn’t really get a handle on what those were to represent, i.e., whether they were paranormal/ghostly dreams or whether they were incarnations of Cilla’s imaganings.

The story is full of renovation details. Minute details about sinks, tiles, shower blocks, paint, and trim. It’s a bit indulgent and for someone who doesn’t like home renovations, it might be a bit boring. As an avid HGTV fan, it didn’t bother me at all. I particularly liked the subcontractors like Bob who looked at Cilla’s requests for things like pot faucets askance but secretly enjoying all the new fangled things she’s making him do.

The dialogue is very good and I enjoyed the interplay between Ford and his buddies and Ford and his family. There are several quotable lines including one from a very familiar romance blogger but because I struggled so hard to grasp the characters and their motivations, I had to give this one a C.

Best regards,


This book can be purchased in hardcover from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Throwmearope
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 12:25:59

    You guys are really getting harsh. I just finished Tribute. Really enjoyed it. I loved watching the house get rehabbed in my imagination. And usually with whodunnits, I figure out fairly early whodunnit, but this one stumped me which is always a plus. (In one JAK, I knew on page 2 whodunnit and told her so, which probably wasn’t very polite of me.)

    I think the secondary characters were a bit less fleshed out than is usual in a LaNora (think Birthright or Northern Lights) but anything that can make a grown child star sympa (from the French for sympathique–no English word for this–you feel for and with somebody but in a pleasant way) is well written. Not my favorite so far, but still very, very well written. I’d give it a B+.

  2. Bev Stephans
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 13:31:19

    As I started to read this review, the mailman delivered my copy of Tribute. It will be interesting to see how we agree or disagree on the mark you gave the book.

  3. FanLit
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 14:57:52

    I think we read two different books. I thought Ford was one of NR’s better heroes. Though he had a personal gym, how unusual to have a hero who isn’t buff nor is he handy. Ford was actually quite sweet. I never thought of him as a stalker nor found him overbearing. Yes, Ford did unobtrusively sketch Cilla and take pictures, but I didn’t find it creepy. He wanted to use a likeness of Cilla as the heroine for his graphic novel, so I didn’t have a problem with that part of the book. If Cilla had said no, I felt that Ford would have backed off.

    I agree that the scenes between Janet and Cilla were somewhat jarring. Though well-written, their encounters were supposed dreams. Yet the dreams reflect Janet’s actual thoughts and feelings before Cilla was even born. For most of the book, I kept wondering if Cilla could see the past; if Janet wanted the mystery solved; or if it was simply a metaphor for Cilla’s own life. I pretty much discounted the last.

    Finally, I think you’re a bit harsh with Cilla’s father. In theory I would agree that any father that abandons his daughter is a poor excuse for a man. Plus, NR doesn’t give the reader many early scenes showing that he even tried to be part of Cilla’s life. However, NR also doesn’t make it quite that simple. Cilla’s dad relocated and I think we can assume that Dilly wouldn’t have made things easy. Also, there is that one glimpse of his concern where he made sure that Cilla’s earnings were protected. I agree it’s not a lot, but there was something likeable about him. Perhaps this is why I think he’s a bit better than your review reflects.

  4. Mary
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 16:28:22

    I’ve just started this -I think I’m on p. 60. Ford just had the confrontation about her camping out, and I agree with Jane. So far, overbearing. And I can’t get over that he was named Ford because he was conceived in a Ford Cutlass. Oldsmobile made Cutlass, not Ford.

  5. Patricia Briggs
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 17:31:12

    This book worked for me. Maybe not as well as some of her books — Northern Lights or her Harbor series, but still a fun read. There were a couple of transitions that were rougher than I usually see in one of Nora’s books — and something that wouldn’t have bothered anyone except another writer, I expect. But Ford, I just adored, right along with his big-eyed puppy who danced. He’s horrified by her camping on her own but 1) You get the feeling that He’d never much done that and 2) she backs him right down and he doesn’t make a pest of himself. At any rate, the scene didn’t bother me — and I liked the way he didn’t push her into sex within ten minutes of meeting her. Coolness.

    It wasn’t Northern Lights, but it was good.

  6. EC Sheedy
    Jul 13, 2008 @ 01:52:47

    I have just started TRIBUTE, and so far I am loving the characters, the setting, and yes, Ford. Patricia Briggs mentioned his “coolness.” So far I am really on board with that. I wouldn’t mind a neighbor like Ford–even if he can’t change a lightbulb!

  7. Michelle
    Jul 13, 2008 @ 11:53:06

    I really liked Ford. Also I think Cilla’s dad understood that he hadn’t been there for her, and tried to move forward and be there for her now. I loved the ex-husband, especially his and Ford’s interactions. The tatoo scene was very funny. I enjoyed Spock-but Moe remains my favorite Nora dog.

  8. Corrine
    Jul 13, 2008 @ 14:46:08

    I’m about 2/3rd in and so far, I’m feeling overall apathetic towards it. No burning need to finish (I actually stopped to balance my checkbook) and no real connection to any of the characters (though, I admit, I was totally wrecked when Cilla asked her dad, “Did you even love me?” One of the more hefty pieces of my baggage caught up to me).

    The thing I’ve noticed in the last few NR titles is the total carelessness with which the female characters view sex. It’s kind of like, well he’s there and I’m horny so why not? To me, that’s completely unsexy and a big respect blow towards that character. And for those who are thinking, well, that’s how young women today are, here’s your reality check: I’m 23 and I definitely don’t feel that way. Maybe that has to do with some of my other extremely heavy baggage, but the honest fact is that not all twenty-something women in the 21st century bed-hop and treat personal relationships so cavalierly. And as much as I love SJP and Carrie Bradshaw, I blame Sex and the City for this entire movement.

    And then, to top it all off, Ford plays video games. Sigh. I had to close my eyes and shake my head. I was totally disenchanted and disappointed by this huge cliche. That was a big point off his favor, but overall I wasn’t creeped out by him. In fact, he’s probably my favorite character.

    All in all, I’d give it a C+.

  9. SonomaLass
    Jul 13, 2008 @ 15:13:52

    I’ve only read the first chapter, posted on the Borders web site, and it excited me to read the rest of the book. I liked Cilla and I liked her father in the excerpt; I’m interested to see whether those feelings change when I get more of the back story.

    Naming the hero after a Ford Cutlass almost has to be ironic (did his mother name him, and she knows nothing about cars?). If not, it’s a big oops — editors should catch things like that. Hell, even as a lowly page-proofer, I would have called that to someone’s attention. Fortunately I’m sure Nora knows that we don’t expect perfection, just a good read!

    This book is right on top of my TBR list, as soon as me and my Borders bucks get to the store. Yay for 40 percent off hardcovers!!!

  10. Sabrina
    Jul 13, 2008 @ 17:46:39

    Ouch on the review:( I have to disagree, it was a bit different from the usual girl meets boy, boy beds girl as soon as possible and that in itself was refreshing(not directing that at NR, just in general). The thoughts/feelings were there but it was not acted on right off the bat(which I don’t necessarily mind the quick bed jumping, but for this book I was glad they didn’t). Personally if you do not want the jump into bed right away issues etc, romance may not be the genre for you. Nothing against anyone else but I do not think the romance genre(NR or anyone else) puts a negative sterotype on women, it’s fiction, an individual does that on their own.

    But anywho, I found Ford a bit stalker-ish in the beginning but as his character developed it made sense, as far as playing video games..he writes graphic novels, he better play video games! I loved the fact that he didn’t know anything about tools and yes a Cutlass is an Oldsmobile which falls under GM, someone should have caught that one. Bad editor, bad editor 50 lashings with a wet noodle for you;)

    Cilla developed throughout the story so by the time the living room was being painted she had come to the point of forgiving and accepting love without strings attached. It did not take her 2 weeks to get to that point, the timeline was there IMHO for that kind of change.

    The dog was awesome and the quick wit that went on between Cilla and Ford had me laughing in the middle of the night and scaring my own 200lb dog that was soundly asleep!

    I agree with Throwmearope:

    Really enjoyed it. I loved watching the house get rehabbed in my imagination. And usually with whodunnits, I figure out fairly early whodunnit, but this one stumped me which is always a plus.

    I was surprised on who the whodunnits were, a bit quick on closing that part out though, not knowing what happened to the whodunnits(trying not to spoil here) but knowing everything about the original “suspect” that carried on throughout the story. All in all I could have done without the Janet/Cilla dreams, and wished the end was a bit more tied up but still was a great book and will pass it on to my neighbors…B:)

  11. Nora Roberts
    Jul 14, 2008 @ 05:45:44

    I think this definitely demonstrates reader opinion–and how they vary. How one element of a book–or indeed the entire story–can and do (does) strike individual readers differently.

    Jane and others can’t relate to or just don’t much like Ford (for instance). Others can and do.

    And all are absolutely right. It’s all about how a story or a character resonate with the individual. Or doesn’t.

    I’m really sorry the book didn’t work well for Jane, and delighted it worked well for those it worked well for. Nothing I can do either way but, well, be sorry and delighted. And that’s what any author needs to remember when reading and/or commenting on a review.

  12. Corrine
    Jul 14, 2008 @ 08:09:03

    Personally if you do not want the jump into bed right away issues etc, romance may not be the genre for you. Nothing against anyone else but I do not think the romance genre(NR or anyone else) puts a negative sterotype on women, it's fiction, an individual does that on their own.

    I have been reading romance for years, and it’s only in the last few years that this trend has been cropping up. If you read some of the romances from pre-2001, this wasn’t an issue. The heroines were more respectful of themselves, there was more sexual tension, and the emotional plotline played out better because it wasn’t all about S-E-X. It was about a genuine loving connection between two people.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are some great stories out there right now, but I know I’m not the only one who has expressed dissatisfication about the quality of the romance genre in the last year especially. And yes part of it is the push by the publishers to have more on the shelves, hit the trends and have more money coming in, but a large part of it is that a lot of writers are missing the emotional resonance of previous romances that made me want to read, and yes, write them as well.

  13. Jeanette
    Jul 14, 2008 @ 09:25:21

    I loved it, was stumped on the bad guy for most of the book. very unudual for me to be stumped. I loved Ford for his humor, his ability to see his own quirkiness and the fact that he played video games. In fact I was going to ask LaNora if she knew a Ford I could introduce my daughter too. He would be perfect for her.

  14. Amanda
    Jul 14, 2008 @ 09:53:09

    And that's what any author needs to remember when reading and/or commenting on a review.

    And THAT’S why I went to the Sony site five minutes ago and purchased a copy of this book. There are a growing list of Authors I will never read again because of their appalling on-line behaviour. So it only seems fair to respond positively to gracious author behaviour by ADDING the names to my ‘must be read’ list. Don’t know whether the book will be to my taste or not, but Ms Roberts is definitely to my taste so I’ll take the chance.

  15. Kalen Hughes
    Jul 14, 2008 @ 10:13:44

    The thing I've noticed in the last few NR titles is the total carelessness with which the female characters view sex. It's kind of like, well he's there and I'm horny so why not? To me, that's completely unsexy and a big respect blow towards that character.

    Clearly “mileage will vary”, cause this is one of the reasons that I read NR!!! Her heroines seem like real, normal people to me. Finally women I can relate to in romance! I don't trust a lot of contemporary authors to deliver heroines that I like, but NR is usually spot on for me.

  16. juneb
    Jul 14, 2008 @ 10:23:56

    One thing that bothered me was the heroine’s name. To me “Cilla” belongs in Denver with Boyd. She works the “Night Shift” as a radio DJ, and Boyd catches the bad guys as Captain of the Denver PD. Other than that, I really enjoyed this one.

  17. Beth
    Jul 14, 2008 @ 10:38:04

    Thank you, Ms. Roberts, for not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.

    And, as usual, all this disagreement has got my fingers pushing One Click and buying the book!

  18. Tabitha
    Jul 14, 2008 @ 12:30:29

    I am a die-hard NR fan so counting the minutes til I can get my hands on a copy of this book! The review here only adds to my anticipation. =)

  19. SusanL
    Jul 16, 2008 @ 00:54:28

    I enjoyed Tribute.

    I never thought of Ford as stalkerish; he seemed like a grown up nerd. For me, his video gaming and Star Wars/Superman obsession fit his character. I know several guys (& a few girls) who would fit in with Ford and his buds. As for Cilla’s father, I had the impression their relationship was a work in progress. He certainly knew he had failed in his role as her father, but I felt they both wanted to build a relationship.

    I also liked Bob, the renovation details AND the quotable line from a familiar romance blogger :)

    Obviously, I didn’t struggle with the characters or their motivations so this is a solid B/B+ for me.

  20. Annmarie
    Jul 16, 2008 @ 16:23:44

    I loved TRIBUTE. LOVED it. I took it with me shopping, to the bank, to the salon and to the cow pasture. I had no idea who the villain was and couldn’t wait to find out.

    Don’t even get me started about Ford. He’s the kind of guy that I wouldn’t have looked twice at when I was in school. Now that I am in my 30’s I TOTALLY see the appeal.

    For me, this book worked. It pulled me in and kept me there with Cilla and Ford. I hated to see them go.

  21. Randi
    Jul 16, 2008 @ 19:35:25

    well poo, my comment didn’t post. So, here we go again…

    Firstly, Nora, loved Tribute. Thank you Jane for posting this review b/c I sooooooooo wanted a place to let Nora know how much I enjoyed it.

    Secondly, re Cilla and her father, I assumed there was backstory there, a history if you will. Cilla knew her half sister enough to like her and knew some things about her stepmother, so it felt, to me, that she and her father HAD a relationship, even if it was mostly superficial. So I bought their interaction.

    Thirdly, re Ford, was a great character. So unlike Nora’s usual heros, which I enjoyed. Not that I don’t love Nora’s other heros, cause I do, but it shows Nora’s strength that she can make a, mostly, geeky guy as a hero and have me buy it. Also, I know great looking guys in their 30’s who play video games and know their comics, so there wasn’t anything there that seemed unreal or forced, for me.

    Fourthly, TOTALLY did not see the end. Not at all. I was totally surprised. yay! And actually, I both laughed out loud and nearly cried, several times, during the read, so viscerally, it hit all my emotional buttons.

    Fifthly, re the sexxoring. I wasn’t sure how to state this and my prior post was maybe all over the place, as I just drove from DC to Philly, but I’ll try it again. I like my heroines to not be virginal. One, I think it puts all the power in the hero’s almight magical penis, which I hate (just as much as I hage the magic hoo-ha). Second, for contemporaries, I don’t buy it. For historicals, ok. I’ll buy that, even though usually only the middle-class was overly concerned with virginity. But women of today, taking ownership of our own sexuality has been a long struggle for women, a struggle we continue to have today. And by somehow praising virginity, while ostrasizing a woman who’s had sex, really bites my ass. (no, this part isn’t going quite right and for that I apologize) Essentially, I don’t necessarily need to read about the sex, but I do want my heroines to have experience in the bedroom. I don’t know if this makes sense…damn. ;)

  22. Heather
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 18:34:12

    Well, I have enjoyed both Nora Roberts and JD Robb for a very long time. I loved Cilla, Ford, Steve and Spock. The dialogue was wonderful. I really appreciated the fact that Ford and Cilla waited until the time was right to have sex, not because she was hurt or upset, but because it was just Cilla and Ford, that was very cool. Here’s what was frustrating, the details in rehabing the house. Oh my gosh! If I wanted a book on rehabing I would have bought one. It was way, way, way too much. I ended up skipping to the end because I thought if I read about one more room getting tiles I would scream.

  23. What Is Wrong With the C Review | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 04:00:48

    […] a tired genre. I loved Angels Fall and High Noon by Nora Roberts but was less than enthused about Tribute. I’m not going to stop reading either author simply because one of their books didn’t […]

  24. BradyB66
    Oct 24, 2008 @ 10:40:49

    I’ve read every book Nora’s published (under the name Nora Roberts, I’m not a fan of the J.D. Robb genre). Discovered her when I was in college in the 80’s and went on a years-long search (pre-internet) to find all of her past books. Some I’ve loved and reread dozens of times, some have not struck a chord within me.

    I liked Tribute, as I like all of Nora’s books. They’re well-written, well-researched escapes into romance. Lately however, certain well-used literary devices have started to bug me.

    1. While I have enjoyed Foolish, Mo, Spock, and Lump – the “dog-as-character” device is becoming old hat.

    2. While the word “lavish” is a good, strong word, every book has someone doing things lavishly. They kiss lavishly, hug lavishly, and in the latest book, the dog peed lavishly.

    3. The first time I saw her reference a song lyric in a sentence, I thought it was neatly done. Now it’s done in almost every book. Something along the lines of “…and with Mick complaining about getting no satisfaction, she cruised into town.”

    I will be the first to admit that I might be alone in feeling this way. As Ms. Roberts graciously stated, book elements strike different people differently. It certainly won’t stop me from buying and enjoying her books.

  25. Helen
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 13:00:25

    Just read the book. The page 20 Ford Cutlass error was really jarring and stayed in my head throughout the whole book. I found Dilly/Bedelia to be a bit of a caricature and somewhat overdrawn. Ford definitely was not my favorite NR hero. A good bathtub read and Nora Roberts is the best author in the genre.

  26. Sabrina
    Jan 31, 2009 @ 11:47:25

    Tribute is one of my favourite books by Nora Roberts and I read them all.
    Many fans seem to have trouble relating with Ford because he is not the typical alpha hero but that’s exactly what makes him so great. He is more real than many other romance books heroes and I think that’s what some people don’t want to read in a romance novel but I think it’s really refreshing.
    I didn’t get him being stalkerish, he is just so enthuastic about his graphic novels and that’s something good.
    Cilla and Ford make a great pair and the secondary characters are also really interesting and likable (ok, Cillas mom and the suit maybe not). And of course I love Spock, he is the best romance book dog ever.
    I would give this book definitely an A and that’s not what I give books by NR automatically even though I’m a huge fan.

  27. Donna
    Jan 09, 2012 @ 22:59:00

    I’m late as usual, but a good read. This book is why Nora Roberts is one of the few romance writers I enjoy. There is actually a story. Thank you

  28. T.A.M
    Apr 11, 2013 @ 10:10:44

    this being my second book to read of Nora Roberts. I felt that the characters were generic (they reminded me alot of lil and copper from Black Hills)
    My favourite parts were the Cilla /Janet dreams they added depth to the story and into Cilla’s mind I thought that theses were very interesting ways to talk about Janet and hear things straight from her.
    Ford was a creeper in the beginning at first and I don’t understand how Cilla quickly got over it, isn’t that why she left L. A? to avoid being watched?
    i thought the rehabbing bits were OK I wasn’t bored nor thrilled by them
    the one thing i did not like was the ending .it seemed like she just rushed what was a shock it was and brushed off characters that will be deeply affected by it.
    oh and Spock was awesome .

  29. Kayleigh
    May 20, 2013 @ 10:20:37

    I found out about Tribute when I watched the TV movie late one night and saw it was a Nora Roberts book so of course I wanted read. The story is now one of my favourites and I am re-reading the story as I type.
    As much as I love the other books (Jewels of the sun, Sea Swept, The Witness, Key of Light) there is something about Tribute that I loved… Mainly, Ford Sawyer.
    I didn’t see him as stalkerish or over bearing. I saw him as excited about his new idea (he’s an artist) and truly shocked to see the state she was living. I loved that he was kind of geeky and needed coffee and sugar and didn’t believe waking up before noon. I loved Spock and Steve. I felt I needed more from Cilla’s dad, but that’s because I have daddy issues, I think.
    I loved the book and it’s one of my favourites. I also want to find my own real life Ford Sawyer!

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