The Tribute
by Beth Williamson, historical (2007)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-447-4

The Tribute is the sixth book in Beth Williamson's series about the Malloy family. The other book in this series that I've read is the second book, The Prize. Many of the events that lead to this story seem to have taken place in previous books, so I can only just shrug and try to keep up.

Brett Malloy, our hero, has won a run-down ranch from a friend in a poker game. He decided to claim the ranch only after Martin Samson passes away. A year after claiming and repairing the ranch, Brett decides that it's time he gets a wife. Not just any wife, though, he has his eyes on that lady doctor Alexandra Brighton. They had a thing back when they were younger until events caused them to drift apart. Brett wants to try again with Alex. He's confident that after he's fixed up the ranch and all, he and Alex will be one happy couple indeed. Alex however isn't sure that she can trust Brett again.

There are many things about the relationship those two had that aren't fully made clear to me in this story. For example, Brett has been avoiding Alex even when they lived in the same area until now. Apparently something happened - in a previous book, no doubt - that had him believing that it is right that he now approaches Alex for a reconciliation. I have no idea what made Brett come to this epiphany of his.

Circumstances will force Alex and Brett together, however. Alex has an unwanted suitor who's a cartoon caricature of a typical vile rich scumbag who wants her to be his wife. And with this being a Western romance, I suppose it is inevitable that Brett will end up needing some bedside doctoring from Alex. Oh, and Alex has a father with a bad drinking problem. In short, even if Alex really wants to make a clean break from Brett, Ms Williamson has piled on Alex enough problems in that poor dear's life to make sure that she will have to go to Brett for assistance in one way or the other. The Tribute is quite contrived that way. It as if I can see the wheels turning in Ms Williamson's head as she works on this book - "Oh no, there is really no reason why Alex can't just break off from Brett... so let's put in a scumbag that forces Alex to run to Brett for help!"

Things improve between Alex and Brett when they finally get married at about the midpoint of this story but the story then turns into a cartoon where the unwanted suitor of Alex starts creating all kinds of problems again and again as if he's Wild E Coyote fitted with an Energizer battery.

The frustrating thing about The Tribute is that my understanding of the characters seem to be very dependent on my reading previous books in the series. When Brett tells Alex that he's changed, for example, it could have been a poignant moment if I know how he has changed or what changed him. The only element of this story that feels complete is the cartoon hour featuring vile King Dawson as the main villain. Everything else feels like a jigsaw puzzle with a few pieces missing.

Of course, you can say that it is my fault for jumping into the series at book six. If that is the case though, then all I can say is that if you're new to the series or, like me, don't follow the series closely, then it's better to start with the first book or leave this one aside for the loyal fans who have been following the series and therefore can appreciate this book better. There are plenty of other books to read.

Rating: 66

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