Saturday, February 7, 2015

Mardi Gras Madness

Not only is this the title of one of my books, but it is also what we are in the midst of in Louisiana at the moment. I do pity northerners who are experiencing always winter and never Mardi Gras to paraphrase C.S.Lewis, but I suppose snow would put a real damper on large parades and people, often tipsy, traipsing around in gaudy costumes. As I had to explain to one of my editors, Mardi Gras is both a season and a day, the day before Lent to be exact. The season starts on Twelfth Night, twelve days after Christmas, and runs until Lent begins. It is a floating holiday and can be long or short. This year it is very short, ending on February 17th. We hate that. No more King Cakes or revelry, just left with trying to figure out what you should give up for Lent until Easter and its candy comes along.

There are also many kinds of Mardi Gras: the high society type I described in Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, small town Mardi Gras where the floats are homemade and everyone participates as outsider Laura learns about in Mardi Gras Madness, and last, a country Mardi Gras where masked riders prowl the countryside asking for donations to the communal gumbo pot--the Courir de Mardi Gras or Mardi Gras Ride, which just happens to be the title of my newest book in the series.  The Courir is a custom dating back to Medieval times when revelers went door to door begging for ha'pennies or sweets and would often perform a song or dance in exchange. The riders in the courir will do horseback stunts, sing, dance, or chase down a live chicken for the pot which is the best of fun, though more folks today tend to donate a frozen bird or a bag of rice.  The masked men wear not finery, but homemade fringed clown costumes with tall, conical hats. It should be needless to say that all of this is well lubricated by alcohol. A sober captain, kind of like a designated driver, oversees their antics. Until recently, women were not allowed to ride in the group, possibly because one trick might be peeing off the side of a horse. The ride ends in town where the communal feast is prepared and a band encourages dancing up until midnight when Lent begins.

My heroine, Suzanne, finds life rather dull in the little country town where she arrives to catalog the antiques in an antebellum home until the Courir arrives at the house, and she is swept up onto the saddle of a masked man dressed in black and carried away from the festivities. When he ties her hands and puts her in a boat, it appears a real kidnapping is in progress. Suzanne escapes but vows to find out the man's identity--and any possible connection he might have to the silver missing from the house shortly thereafter.  She uncovers more local secrets than is good for her own health. Anyhow, I hope you will keep an eye out for the premier of Courir de Mardi Gras on February 13th (available now for pre-order form Amazon), something fun to read during those dark days of winter.