Saturday, January 30, 2010

Weekend Wildcard: The Magic of Mardi Gras

Lynne Raye Harris examines the unique atmosphere that is Mardi Gras New Orleans. Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!

In my most recent book, CAVELLI’S LOST HEIR, Prince Nico Cavelli first meets na├»ve Lily Morgan in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. I could see the passion and excitement between them, feel the exuberance of the city during carnival, and picture how reckless and happy they were as they tripped off to a little hotel to make love for the first time.

Mardi Gras, I felt, contributed to that magic. If they’d met anywhere else, at any other time, would Lily have felt like she could give herself to this man she barely knew? Would Nico have kept secret the fact he was a prince and spent so much time with a woman who clearly had no idea the kind of life he was accustomed to?

I have spent time in New Orleans. I have family who live right across the lake, and I remember lots of trips to Grandma’s house when I was a kid. Grandma lived in a cute little cottage near Lake Ponchartrain. Grandma smoked, cussed like a sailor, and cooked crawfish and crabs and all the goodies you would expect from Cajun country.

But one thing Grandma would not do was cross that bridge to New Orleans unless she absolutely had to. And she definitely wasn’t going to Mardi Gras. Too crowded, too noisy, and too dangerous she would say. (Though I later learned she’d spent plenty of time going to the Big Easy when she was younger, ahem.)

So while I was able to picture the magic of Mardi Gras, and put my characters in the middle of it in my imagination, I have in truth never been to Mardi Gras. I’ve also been to that other city famous for its Mardi Gras celebrations – Venice. I even have a real Carnivale mask that I bought in a tiny shop down one of the rabbit warren alleyways. But again, I’ve never been to the actual celebration. Maybe one day.

Until then, I’ll keep imagining the scene in my head. And if my characters end up in one of these fine cities, chances are they will get to experience the magic of Mardi Gras in one way or another. For Nico and Lily, it was the beginning of a lifelong love story. Though of course it wouldn’t be a Harlequin Presents without a lot of angst and emotional upheaval along the way!

If you’ve ever thought of going to Mardi Gras, or just visiting New Orleans, visit the New Orleans Tourism site at (You’ll notice a theme at the moment: the New Orleans Saints are going to the Super Bowl for the FIRST time in franchise history. This has excited folks just a bit. My dad, who never really watches football but who grew up with the disappointing Saints, is beside himself with excitement over the prospect of watching the Super Bowl next weekend.)

Though Nico and Lily spend most of their time in the Mediterranean kingdom of Montebianco, New Orleans will always be a part of their story. It’s where they met, where they made love for the first time, and—well, I’ll let you find out for yourself. :)

From the back cover:

Captive and married: by royal decree!

Normally Prince Nico Cavelli would never waste his time visiting the prison cell of a tourist. Except this particular alleged criminal has stolen something very personal to him—his son, heir to the Montebianco throne!

Lily Morgan always knew it was a mistake coming to the Mediterranean kingdom, but she’d had no choice. First she was thrown into jail for a crime she didn’t commit…now she’s been bailed out by the prince—though in return she must become his royal wife!

Have you ever been to Mardi Gras? Ever been to a famous celebration associated with a particular city? (Oktoberfest in Munich, the running of the bulls in Pamplona, La Tomatina in Spain, etc.) I’d love to hear about it, and I’d love to hear about festivals around the world that I may not know about!


  1. I've not been but Nico and Lily met there with her not knowing who he was.....a wonderful story Lynn Raye!

  2. Ah, the memories of Mardi Gras.


    Nope, won't be sharing those in public...

  3. Ah Mardi Gras. My brother went to Tulane in the early I heard about it.
    I only visited New Orleans at spring break but have v fond memories of the place.

    I don't like festivals much as once when I was pregnant with my eldest, my husband and I became caught up in Palm Sunday celebration in Granada, Spain. Huge crowds and sinster figures with whips and chains, and cloaks which hid their burning eyes.

    Closer to home, every New Years Eve is the Tar Baal Festival at Allendale which stretches back in time, quite possibly to pagan times. Although one suspects it was probably revived in its current form in the mid 19th century...Guisers carry barrels of lighted tar around the village on thier heads before dumping it on to the fire.

  4. Been to New Orleans a couple of times in my youth, stayed in a broken-down guest house off St Charles Avenue, travelled down to the French Quarter on the Streetcar and danced all night to live Zydeco and soul music on Bourbon St.

    Don't think I'd fancy Mardi Gras though, too touristy! I reckon you have to be a native to really get into the party spirit and I've got the Notting Hill Carnival for that (although sounds like Kim might prove me wrong on that one!!). But loved the city in November when it was empty and moody and super-cool and just that lovely little bit out of step with the rest of America.

  5. Never been to the Mardi Gras but would love to. The closest I've got to something like it is the Nottinghill Carnival (in London). Take care. Caroline x

  6. Hey, y'all! Yep, I think I'm too old for Mardi Gras now. It's a truth I hate to admit, but I just don't think a big long party is my thing anymore.

    I have been to Oktoberfest twice -- and I'm too old for those crowds anymore too. Also, love the Kristkindlmarkts in Germany. And all the little local fests they have throughout the year. Wine fests -- not too old for those yet. ;)

    We have a couple of local fests around here -- and they involve BBQ, so I think I can do that.

    The Notting Hill Carnival sounds fun! And the Tar Baal Festival sounds quite exotic!

  7. I haven't been to Mardi Gras, but I have been to New Orleans several times. What's interesting is that Mobile, Alabama also has a Mardi Gras tradition that's even older than New Orleans. I've also been to the Notting Hill Carnival when I lived in Earl's Court. I'm going to have to go out and read this book now!

  8. Hi, Elizabeth! Hmm, Mobile huh? Have to look into that!

    I should clarify that Nico and Lily's meet takes place before the story begins -- though N.O. will appear at some point, I promise!

  9. I have been new New Orleans several times and like Elizabeth think November is the best time to go. I love to work on my Christmas shopping at the French Market then go have cafe au lait.

    I haven't ever been at Mardi Gras and don't think I would like the crowds then. I have friends who live in Mobile and have been to Mardi Gras both places. They say the Moblie version is much better.

    I enjoyed reading everyone's thoughts and memories. I think this was a wonderfully magical place for Lily to find her Prince!