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Tribute    by Nora Roberts order for
by Nora Roberts
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2008 (2008)
*   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Cilla McGowan leaves Hollywood behind and heads to the Shenandoah Valley to reclaim her grandmother's long neglected farm. She has big plans to bring the house and grounds back to their former glory. Janet Hardy was famous for her many movie roles, her golden voice, her tumultuous affairs and for dying from a combination of vodka and sleeping pills. After thirty years of speculation, Cilla is determined to lay her grandmother and her many ghosts to rest once and for all.

By gutting and rebuilding Janet's old farmhouse, Cilla also hopes to find closure on her former life as a failed Hollywood starlet and nurture new beginnings as an accredited contractor. The crumbling house and weed infested grounds offer all sorts of challenges and possibilities and Cilla throws herself wholeheartedly into the task - so much so that she's almost too busy to notice her neighbour, graphic novelist Ford Sawyer and his delightfully ugly dog Spock. After Ford makes a point of introducing himself and his slavishly loyal dog, Cilla soon finds herself reeled in by his quirky charm. But others aren't happy about Cilla's return and the plans she has for Little Farm. When minor pranks turn into a vicious assault upon a close friend, Cilla is determined to uncover the dark and dangerous secrets Janet Hardy had taken to her grave.

Roberts can't be faulted for her characterizations: she does an interesting role reversal here, making Cilla a believable (if often whiny) contractor girl who uses her profession to work through a truckload of issues to do with her Hollywood career and the constant demands of her cloying mother. As for Ford, he's a laid back Beta male who recognises Cilla for who she is and has absolutely no problem letting her play with tools while he sips iced tea on the veranda and mentally plots out his next graphic novel. Unfortunately, though, characters cannot save what soon becomes an overblown, slow moving and derivative story. Roberts spends far too much time explaining the various processes involved in gutting and refurbishing a house; readers addicted to home improvement shows like Flip This House might be entertained but for those of us expecting another of Roberts's engaging, suspense-filled plots, Tribute doesn't deliver; 400 plus pages later it ends with more fizzle than bang.

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