There’s really no better place to have a wild weekend, with or without cards, than New Orleans. The city has always fascinated me and called to my writers’ imagination. Everything is just a little spicier there, a little hotter, and whole lot steamier. I’d been longing to write a Desire set there, and when I came up with the idea for the third book in my Hardcastle Progeny series The Heir’s Scandalous Affair, I knew it had to be set in New Orleans.
Samantha Hardcastle has traveled to the city on her quest to find her late husband’s scattered children. The sultry atmosphere and the kindness of a handsome stranger lead her into that stranger’s bed. And the next day she finds out she’s accidentally slept with her long-lost stepson, Louis DuLac. Is New Orleans not the perfect place for this kind of madness to happen?
I first arrived New Orleans many years ago in the heady final days of Mardi Gras. I’d always lived in large cities filled with revelers, but I’d never walked along streets that literally reeked of beer. The whole bare breast/bead throwing/masked craziness of the place made my eyeballs pop. My first sight of crawdads had the same effect. They were so… big! I’m sure I made several people’s eyeballs pop as well, since I kept falling asleep everywhere—on the grassy banks of the Mississippi, in the trolley, on the white tablecloth in a smart restaurant… It later turned out I had advanced Lyme disease, but I bet they just assumed I was even drunker than everyone else!
Once Mardi Gras was over, a friend and I drove out of the city and around the nearby bayou. What an enchanted and amazing place. The past hovers everywhere like fog. I couldn’t get over the oft-repeated sight of a new, modern house built right beside the remains of the family’s ramshackle old house. They’d just left it there, like a ghost in the garden.
The lush tropical climate of Southern Louisiana produces a riot of greenery that threatens to swallow everything alive. Spanish moss and kudzu crawl over everything that isn’t moving. The bayou is a watery wilderness, getting more watery all the time. A fascinating book called Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast by Mark Tidwell explains how dams all along the Mississippi prevent the river from flooding and pouring rich silt out into the river delta. Farmers no longer have to worry about floods, but with the natural process that built the whole bayou region interrupted, the land is sinking into the ocean and disappearing. It’s shocking to look at satellite photos and see how many thousands of acres are lost every year.
The culture of the area springs from its unique mix of people. Cajun and Creole cooking, Jazz music, Zydeco and—of course—Mardi Gras don’t exist in the same form anywhere else. You can tell when you’re talking on the phone to someone in Manhattan because there will be a siren wailing somewhere in the background. My mother lived in New Orleans for several months last year while I was writing this book and several conversations were interrupted by a sudden thundering of noise: “Wait just a minute, there’s another parade going by!” When Hurricane Katrina happened it almost looked like this magical place might disappear off the map, but happily New Orleans has proved it’s not going anywhere, and the good times are still rolling. I thoroughly enjoyed celebrating this unique and special place in my book.
Have you been to New Orleans or have you always wanted to go? Do you have any favorite books set there? One person who leaves a comment will win a signed copy of The Heir’s Scandalous Affair.