Ellen Byron’s TV credits include Wings and Just Shoot Me. She’s written over 200 magazine articles, and her published plays include the award-winning Graceland. Learn more about Ellen and her book at her website.
An Overnight Stay at a Louisiana Plantation
When I planned a trip that would introduce my husband to the Louisiana that I fell in love with as a Tulane University student, I decided to treat us to the adventure of spending the night at a plantation. After doing a little research, I booked a night at Madewood in Napoleonville.
We drove up from New Orleans, turned onto a road that ran alongside Bayou Lafourche, and then stopped in front of an elegant Greek revival mansion. Built in 1846 by Colonel Thomas Pugh, it’s been owned by the Marshall family since 1964. No Marshalls were in residence when we arrived, but we were welcomed by a household staff member and given written details on how to enjoy our stay.
Around six p.m., we rendezvoused with fellow guests in the library for wine and cheese and appetizers. There were about half a dozen of us, but all I remember is a young couple from Boston on their honeymoon, and a tall, self-confident Texan. I don’t remember his wife, which tells you which of the couple had the larger personality. In order to begin dinner, we’d been instructed to ring a bell that would summon the help. This led to an awkward moment. The politically correct among us couldn’t bring ourselves to ring that bell. Finally, Tex, as I’ll call him, said, “I’ll do it,” then jumped up and rang the bell with gusto. An older woman in a white uniform came out of the kitchen and showed us to the dinner table, where we spent the next couple of hours eating an array of amazing homemade Creole courses.
Strangers brought together by chance. An evening orchestrated by a host not present. As the night went on, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was actually living the Agatha Christie novel, And Then There Were None. The only thing missing was a fierce storm that knocked out all the power and of course, a murder victim or two! Luckily, we were spared such drama. We finished the meal, had a good night’s sleep, and enjoyed a hearty breakfast the next morning. I left with great memories and the inspiration for my debut novel, Plantation Shudders: A Cajun Country Mystery.
Many of Louisiana’s plantations now welcome guests, including Nottoway, Houmas House, and the iconic Oak Alley. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend an overnight stay. It was a fascinating experience, and one I dream of replicating.
Maggie Crozat, a feisty artist in her early thirties, moves back to eccentric Pelican, Louisiana, after a decade in New York to work at her family’s historic plantation-turned-B&B. The family business is in peril after an obnoxious eighty-something couple staying at the B&B on their honeymoon – yes, their honeymoon – mysteriously drops dead within minutes of each other. The Pelican Chief of Police carries a longstanding grudge against the Crozats, and Maggie can’t trust the sexy new detective in town because he happens to be the Chief’s cousin. So Maggie is forced to become an amateur sleuth, aided by her accordion-playing best friend Gaynell, her cross-dressing pal JJ, and her cocktail-loving Grandmere.