Hello everyone! Please give Lilah Suzanne, author of the Spotlights series, a warm welcome!
We’re excited to have Lilah on From Top to Bottom Reviews today with a Guest Post about what influence New Orleans had as a setting on their new release Jilted!
A romantic comedy of love lost, faked, and found…
Carter’s fiancé is in love with someone else. Link has just been left at the altar. After bonding over mutual heartbreak at the would-be reception’s open bar, Link and Carter pass out in the honeymoon suite—and are mistaken for the happy newlywed couple the next morning. Reluctant to deal with the fallout from their breakups, they embark on an exciting week of fake honeymooning, during which Carter starts to have real feelings for Link. A genderqueer artist who lives life by their own rules, Link inspires Carter to build a new future. Against the eclectic and electric backdrop of New Orleans, Carter and Link have to decide if a second chance at love is in the cards, or if they’re only meant to be sidelined in someone else’s story.
Every good rom-com is set in a dynamic city that becomes a character unto itself, and usually that city is New York. Sometimes it’s Seattle, like once or twice. Maybe Chicago. I’ve been guilty of this myself because, typically, we don’t think about the South when we think of these charismatic rom-com settings, especially for queer rom-coms. I’d like to help change that. For my Spotlight series, which is set in Nashville, and now for my new release Jitled, I’ve chosen cities that, to me, exemplify what diverse, interesting, progressive, and yes, dynamic, cities the South has to offer. For Jilted, the story couldn’t be set anywhere but New Orleans.
I fell in love with New Orleans the first time I visited as a teenager. I remember how vibrant it was, with the music and food and diversity of people, and how imbued with history it was—around every corner is a story of the people and places (and sounds and tastes) that make New Orleans what it is. I love that it’s a city so imbued with pride, one that wears who it is and has been front and center, because the main characters in Jilted, Carter and Link, are also proudly and unapologetically themselves. Yet New Orleans is also a place that has seen struggle and hardship, a place of tremendous resiliency that has had to rebuild from rubble. That sort of strength and fortitude was a perfect for a relationship that starts with heartbreak and ends up stronger for it.
I had a lot of fun coming up with Link and Carter’s fake Honeymoon destinations in particular, and using those destinations to hint towards the growing relationship between them. The park where Link and Carter have a picnic on the first day under an oak tree filled with wind chimes— known as The Singing Oak—was an ideal spot a moment of reflection and healing. A tour of New Orleans’ most haunted places and a walk through one of the cemeteries known a the “Cities of The Dead” were an easy metaphor for the ghosts of old relationships still haunting the characters, and how well each of them were coping with those ghosts. A trip on the St John’s trolley was a symbol for Carter and Link beginning to move forward—both separately and together, and all of that delicious NOLA food along the way was to show Carter’s growing affection for Link. (Also because the food is amazing and I couldn’t not include it!) Later on in the book, Link’s roots to the city and Carter’s new connections there speak to both characters’ journeys towards learning to value themselves and finding a place in the world that isn’t so totally dependent on someone else. Only then can the relationship really begin.
It was important to me as well that the story was set in a place where people who are non-binary, trans, gay, and bi/pan-sexual, like the main and secondary characters in Jilted, would feel comfortable and safe, and in New Orleans I believe that they would. It’s a slightly idealized version of New Orleans of course, it is a rom-com after all, but the notion that an LGBTQIA person can’t live a happy, safe, and loved existence in a place like Louisiana is untrue. As a queer person who lives in the southern US, I know for a fact that we can. There is still a lot of work to be done here, plenty of it, but it’s important to me to show that there are progressive cities in the south, that there are places like New Orleans and Nashville (and Atlanta, Asheville, Charlotte, Austin, Dallas, Charleston…) where queer people live and love quite happily.
In Jilted, Carter falls in love with New Orleans as he’s falling in love with Link, and Link learns to that trust Carter’s love will always be there just as they learn to trust that their connection to the city will always be there. In that way the New Orleans is not just a place where the story happens but is intimately tied into Link and Carter’s happily ever after. And most importantly, where else could Link and Carter have fallen in love over beignets and crawfish étouffée?
Lilah Suzanne is the author of Amazon bestseller Broken Records, part of the Spotlight series along with Burning Tracks and Blended Notes. Lilah also authored Spice, the novellas Pivot & Slip and After the Sunset, and the short story Halfway Home, which was featured in the holiday anthology If the Fates Allow. A writer from a young age, Lilah resides in North Carolina and mostly enjoys staying indoors, though sometimes ventures out for concerts, museum visits, and quiet walks in the woods.