REVIEW: Tribute by Nora Roberts
Dear Ms. Roberts:
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.