With the annual RWA conference around the corner, this month's TBR theme is books that won or were nominated for an RWA RITA award. A list of past winners can be found here. I had no luck finding a comprehensive list of nominations, which is unfortunate as I'm sure some of those books also reside in my TBR pile. When I scanned the list of winners, though, I immediately remembered that I had Susan Wiggs' Lord of the Night on hand. In 1994 it won the RITA for Best Romance of 1993. According to Amazon, I bought this back in 2005, and I'm going to assume that I bought it after seeing it discussed on one of the old AAR message boards. If I remember correctly, this book had its lovers and haters. One big reason for the hate is the fact that the hero is 39 and the heroine is 18. In fact the hero, a widower, has 2 grown children.
Sandro has come to Titian's studio because he needs to question the artist about the murder he's investigating. Laura becomes a part of Sandro's investigation which leads to numerous interactions between them. Sandro is distressed by his strong reaction to Laura. Laura, in turn, finds him attractive, but she owes a debt to the owner of a high-class brothel. Laura's services as a virgin are to be auctioned off at an upcoming festival. Despite Sandro's attempts to dissuade her, Laura is determined to go through with the commitment to the auction as she sees it as the only road that would allow her to become an artist.
In some ways, both Sandro and Laura are stock characters and the conflict between them is typical. Sandro is rigid and unyielding, but of course he has a core of compassion and honesty. Laura is beautiful, talented, wise beyond her years, and determined to walk a path normally not allowed to women. Laura softens Sandro, to the surprise of his friends and family. Naturally, it is Sandro who places the high bid when Laura is auctioned off. Then, when it becomes clear that Laura is in danger from whoever is committing the murders, Sandro whisks her out of town where they enjoy an idyllic time of loving and Laura paints and paints. But the murders need to be solved and their relationship comes to a head when Laura refuses to be set up as Sandro's mistress.
I admit that when I first got the book, I couldn't get past the opening chapters. Laura didn't strike me as "real" and other than some normal male lust, I didn't understand what Sandro saw in Laura. This time I kept reading. The villain became apparent early on, although there is an unexpected twist at the end. I still never really warmed up to Laura, although I appreciated her determination to stay true to herself. At the end, when Sandro realizes he wants to marry Laura, he cannot do so without losing his title or lands; class divisions were extremely strict. So with a little deus ex machina a happy ending is achieved. (There's a great definition of deus ex machina here at Wikipedia that describes exactly what happens at the end of the book.)
I would love to know what other books were nominated for Best Romance of 1993. I have to admit, I did not love the romance in this book, but I did enjoy the descriptions of Venice and its politics. I found the book engaging and easy to read, just a little too formulaic. And as I indicated, Laura's character didn't seem as believable as Sandro's was.
Here are the other 1994 RITA winners. I've only read the two by Jo Beverley. Both were far better books, in my not-so-humble opinion.
|1994 RITA Winners|
|Best Romance of 1993||Lord of the Night by Susan Wiggs|
|Best First Book||A Candle in the Dark by Megan Chance|
|Best Contemporary Single Title||Private Scandals by Nora Roberts|
|Best Futuristic/Fantasy/Paranormal Romance||Falling Angel by Anne Stuart|
|Best Historical Series||My Lady Notorious by Jo Beverley|
|Best Historical Single Title||Untamed by Elizabeth Lowell|
|Best Long Contemporary Series Romance||Dragonslayer by Emilie Richards|
|Best Regency Romance||Deidre and Don Juan by Jo Beverley|
|Best Romantic Suspense||Nightshade by Nora Roberts|
|Best Short Contemporary Series Romance||Avenging Angel by Glenna McReynolds|
|Best Traditional Romance||Annie and the Wise Men by Lindsay Longford|
|Best Young Adult Romance||Summer Lightning by Wendy Corsi Staub|