Tribute by Nora Roberts

Tribute by Nora RobertsTribute by Nora Roberts
Published by Putnam Adult on July 8, 2008
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery
Pages: 451
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
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The #1 New York Times bestselling author presents her latest blockbuster novel, the story of a big-screen legend, a small-town scandal and a young woman caught up in the secrets and shadows of both.

Cilla McGowan, a former child star, has found a more satisfying life restoring homes. So she comes to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to save the dilapidated farmhouse that once belonged to her grandmother—a legendary actress who died of an overdose more than thirty years ago.

Plunging into the project with gusto, Cilla’s almost too busy and exhausted to notice her neighbor, graphic novelist Ford Sawyer. Determined not to carry on the family tradition of ill-fated romances, Cilla steels herself against Ford’s quirky charm, though she can’t help indulging in a little fantasy.

But it’s reality that holds its share of dangers for Cilla. A cache of unsigned letters found in the attic points to a mysterious romance in her grandmother’s life—and may be the catalyst for a frightening, violent assault. And if Cilla and Ford are unable to sort out who is targeting her and why, she may, like her world-famous grandmother, be cut down in the prime of her life.

Though I’m late to the Nora Roberts fan club, having read my first one in late 2017, I’ll be here to stay. My feelings have been mixed across my first nine books, but that doesn’t bother me so much. Romance is a tricky genre because so much is dependent on the reader’s emotional connection to a particular couple and their personal opinions of the romance tropes used in each book. Over her massive backlist (which I wanted to read in its entirety but omg there’s too much), she’s obviously tried just about everything. Tribute is the second Nora novel I’ve read and absolutely adored. (For reference, I liked most of them and they’re fun reads.)

After I expressed interest in trying Nora Roberts books, quite a while ago, Meg sent me a present with a bunch of Nora books, including Tribute. I’m pretty sure she especially said I’d love this one because nerdy LI, and omg was she right about that. Anyway, bless friends who know you well enough to send you books that will give you the shippies.

What amazes me most about Tribute is that, when I look at from a craft perspective I really feel like it should not work. It’s REALLY long and, though it’s ostensibly a mystery, there’s really not that much mystery in it? The romance is incredibly low tension at basically all points. Trying to sustain interest without a plot throwing excitement and tension constantly is really difficult, but I was never bored by this book. The only reason I was mad at the length was because I didn’t have enough time at home to read it as quickly as I wanted to, but it could have been longer and I’d have been fine with it.

The LI doesn’t even have an emotional arc of his own, aside from a brief horror at realizing that he’s nine years from turning 40 (DUDE I FEEL YOU); he’s comfortably employed, loved by friends, family and goofy dog, and emotionally open and stable. Usually both characters have flaws they’re working through, because it makes them feel more real and adds a bit of drama. When the love interest is perfect, it generally makes them feel like a manic pixie, but somehow Ford feels like a real person to me. He’s just one who has been lucky enough to find his place and confidence with who he is; there are references to pretty intense bullying all through his childhood, so it’s not like he’s had a difficulty-free life.

Ford’s really this wonderful cinnamon roll. He’s a graphic novel author and illustrator, and I’ll even forgive him for fridging the hero’s wife in his first series, because I bet he wouldn’t do it again once he learned about that harmful, sexist trope. There are great nerdy references throughout, and he’s always ready with a quip or emotional support, depending on what’s needed. He’s even-tempered as a rule, and I smiled so hard every time he was reasonable where a typical romance hero would have been shouting at Cilla. This is how healthy relationships work: open communication and not going straight to the anger place. Also, I love how Cilla would be trying to start a fight and he’d be chill/funny, and she’d be like “damn it, I can’t even be mad” so they’d talk it out.

He makes such a wonderful contrast to Cilla, whose emotional arc is the true focal point of the series. Granddaughter of a famous Hollywood actress who killed herself at 39 and a mother on marriage five, who is determined to eke as much celebrity out of her mother’s existence as possible. Cilla grew up a child actress, but she’s finally given up on Hollywood for good and wants to settle down in the family farm, her grandmother’s old retreat. There she discovers that her grandmother’s death may not have been as simple as she thought, aka the mystery plot.

Cilla has gotten into house-flipping, and she’s really awesome at both the design aspect and the construction. Girl gets tools and is stubborn enough to argue with and prove herself to men who want to underestimate the pretty former starlet. The house-flipping aspect was awesome, and, if you’re into HGTV, this will so be your thing. I love that Cilla’s into tools and construction, while Ford cannot pick up a tool without damaging something, and that they’re both totally okay with that. Yay for overturning gender roles!

The mystery largely consists of the question of who Janet was writing love letters to in town and of who is attacking Cilla/the house. I wasn’t massively invested in the mysteries, but I WAS massively invested in Cilla’s happiness, so I wanted to know who did it so I could put an end to it. *menacingly cracks knuckles*

Tribute is so, so good. I’ll be rereading this one throughout the years without a doubt. Nora’s the queen for a reason.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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