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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.
A satisfying romantic novel with just enough suspense to keep me turning the pages well into the night.
The plot of Tribute is reminiscent of Roberts’s earlier Night Moves—celebrity buys and rehabs house in the Blue Ridge, and finds love with her neighbor—but without the aspects I found so problematic in the latter. To begin with, Ford is so much more likable than Cliff, the gruff “hero” of Night Moves. Ford is kinder, more laid-back, with a better sense of humor, and above all, more sensitive and patient. He’s is persistent without being pushy; when Cilla says “no,” Ford is willing to wait. Cilla is a bundle of contradictions: intelligent and strong, but with inner insecurities springing from deplorable mothering and a childhood spent very much in the public eye.
I love the way Roberts plays with gender-role reversal in this book. Cilla is her own general contractor on the house and does a lot of the physical work herself, from demo to rebuilding the porch. She’s skilled with tools, strong, competent. She’s also leery of getting involved—at least with people, though she’s deeply committed to the house, which belonged to her movie-star grandmother. Ford is an artist (Maggie’s role in Night Moves, though she was a singer, not a graphic novelist.) He takes care of Cilla far more than she does him, which makes sense in context, both because of her background and because she’s the one in danger. There’s nothing effeminate about him; he’s all male, but with the emotional perception and sensitivity more often expected of women than men (and deeply appreciated by women in men.)
The mystery is also harder to solve than in Night Moves. But the suspense never overwhelms the rest of the novel, which is balances three closely intertwined themes or storylines: Cilla’s involvement with the house, her relationship with Ford, and the ongoing threats to both the house and Cilla herself. I honestly didn’t see the solution coming; in retrospect, the clues were there, but subtle enough that I missed them entirely.
Overall, I found Tribute engrossing and thoroughly satisfying—so much so that I didn’t stop reading until 4:30 am. While it’s not my favorite Roberts book of all time, it’s certainly one, along with other like The Liar and Whiskey Beach, that I will happily read again.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon 2017
- The Backlist Reader Challenge 2017