Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tribute by Nora Roberts ****

This is a fairly new release but I managed to snag a used half price copy at Hastings this week, so I indulged even though I prefer to wait til they get under $5. It'll get me a credit at PBS no doubt, as well.

I liked it! The dialogue is fast and true and a little sarcastic and witty. The hero is a great guy - I'm guessing we can classify Ford as a beta hero - slightly nerdy but also slightly hunky, he's a well known graphic novelist who lives across the street from the house where former Big Hollywood Star Janet Hardy lived and died, which her granddaughter Cilla is now remodeling. He's the boy next door, and while he works out and has a nice body, he won't go anywhere near a power tool. And he has a marvelous dog, Spock.

Cilla's a former child star currently living off residuals and making her way in the world flipping houses (as in, buying, rehabbing and selling for a profit). But this house, which she bought from her mother, is the only thing in her world that smacks of family and stability, so she's thinking she might just make it her permanent base. And she's doing a lot of the work herself personally - as in using power tools.

I pictured Judy Garland as a sort of model for grandmother Janet Hardy, because it was obvious that a lot of people still thought very highly of this now-deceased famous actor/singer. People were selling memorablia on eBay and such for someone who had committed suicide (or maybe it was an accidental overdose) 30 years ago. Part of her tragic story involved her son dying in a car accident that killed one friend and left another paraplegic. There are still some folks bitter about this accident, since the star's son was driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

In fact, someone is apparently still so bitter that Cilla's house and even herself become the target of someone twisted, someone who starts with vandalism and then moves on to attempted murder. But who?

It's a suspense/mystery/thriller with romance, and I liked the whole package. Cilla gets to know her father, who divorced her mother when Cilla was still a toddler and now lives with his current wife and daughter in this same town. She also gets to know the other families - Ford's very normal parents and grandparents, the families of the local construction workers she hires to help her rehab - and she develops, slowly, her own sense of family around her. Her relationship with Ford builds slowly and realistically.

There's a lot of humor in Ford's work - he leaves drawings around for her that feature her as a super hero. I wondered a little at the enormous amount of "dating" the work has in it, though. Having just finished a 1984 work by LaVyrle Spencer that really seems dated now, I wonder how someone will read this story in 20 years, since there are lots and lots of current references - HGTV tv shows, current jargon, branding - will any of that make sense in 20 years??

So - I liked Ford and I liked Cilla. I liked the depiction of family as stability. I had read a review that already tipped me off that when the Villain was revealed it would be surprising, so I spend a lot of time making wild guesses (her half-sister?? Ford's grandfather??) and since I considered every single character wasn't quite as surprised as the reviewer. I thought Ford's proposal was oh-so-romantic and very in character.

Here's where it didn't make it to 5 stars - I enjoyed reading it but it really didn't make me ... feel anything. I wasn't moved to tears or to laughter, I didn't really get scared. I enjoyed it and now I'm done. For 5 stars I need the characters to get under my skin and I need to feel what they felt.

YMMV. 4 stars.

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