Roped InRoped In by Kate Dolan writing as K.D. Hays

Her last clients fired her. Now investigator Karen Maxwell needs to prove she can be trusted to solve hard cases or she’ll be out of a job. But will she ever be taken seriously as an investigator when her only cases involve a broken jump rope and a dead parrot? 

Karen discovers a whole new world when she goes undercover into the sport of competitive jump rope. Athletes dedicate hours and hours of practice to dreams of making it to the world competition—and some might do anything to win. Add a gym-full of  raging teenage hormones and overzealous parents and it becomes even more difficult to discover the truth about that broken rope.

Meanwhile, the parrot investigation gets Karen in trouble with the Neighborhood Watch, her daughter is developing a suspicious social life, and her son can’t be trusted with the toaster oven. Then there’s the whole romance thing—Brian is a super serious church leader one minute and then acting like a crazed adolescent the next. Is there enough caffeine in the world to get her through this?

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The Story Behind the Story:

Kate Dolan's daughter Meg competing at the Junior Olympics in 2014

The concept for Roped In was born of desperation. My editor had approved three storylines for the Karen Maxwell mysteries, but when it came time to write book three, I knew I had a problem. I told the editor I couldn’t use the plot she’d originally approved because that story (which was about a private zoo) needed to take place in the fall and I didn’t want to skip ahead that far in the relationship between my characters. But another reason I couldn’t write that plot was that I didn’t feel I had the knowledge to write it realistically, and the prospect of that much research on biology was daunting. I wanted something easier. I proposed some other ideas but she said they didn’t fit the mold. By this point I was way behind schedule so I needed to find something fast. My daughter had recently joined a jump rope team so I thought if I devised a story about allegations of sabotage at a jump rope competition, I would have easy access to people I could interview about competitions, events, practices, etc. My editor okayed the idea so I wrote the synopsis and the first three chapters and she approved those as well.

Then the publisher cancelled the series and I moved on to other projects.

Years went by, and although the Karen Maxwell mysteries did not feature prominently in those years, jump rope did. My daughter Meg progressed in her skills to the point where she started performing, and I started coaching. Then she started coaching and competing and I started judging and before we knew it, we found ourselves at a jump rope practice or event five or six days a week all year round.  We were living the life of the characters in Roped In. My daughter even had a rope break in one tournament, just like in the book. Kate Dolan's daughter Meg Weidman and teammates at the 2015 USAJR National Competition

I realized that before she graduated high school and moved on to the next phase of her life, I needed to finish my “jump rope mystery.” I even wrote part of the first draft while we were in Long Beach, California for a national competition in 2013. Meg had qualified in only one individual event–triple unders—the same event that figures so prominently in Roped In. At the time I outlined the story, I had never even seen a triple under, so of course I never dreamed my own daughter would be following in the footsteps of my fictional character. Fortunately, Meg has enjoyed her senior year in the sport more than her fictional counterpart! (For updates and videos about Meg’s jump rope endeavors, keep an eye on the Toto’s Tale page on Facebook )

The top photo shows Meg jumping a power event at the Junior Olympics in Des Moines, Iowa in 2014 and the bottom photo shows Meg with teammates Drew and Michael in a double dutch freestyle event at the USAJR National Competition in Orlando in 2015. Not surprisingly, she also served as my cover model for Roped In.

Reviews:

“What a fun book ! ! Not only are there 2 cases to investigate, they are so crazy that you cannot help but want to read it to the end.”
–Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

“This is a Christian mystery so there are church/God references but nothing too over the top, a good balance. The mystery portion actually cracked me up – Karen is hired to figure out who sabotaged the client’s daughter’s jump rope in competition. Normally mysteries are trying to find a killer, but not here. I thought it was an interesting twist and actually a nice change from the norm.  There is a good balance of the characters with varying personalities that add charm and wit to the story. There is even a little bit of a love story between Karen and Brian (the beau). Very enjoyable book and learned a lot about jump roping competitions, apparently this is a real thing – who knew?! We give this 4 paws up and will go back and try and read the other books too.”
–Storeybook Reviews

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More info:

The Dubious History of Jump Rope

Competitive what?

Why we love the Olympics even if we don’t like sports

Interview at The Writer’s Life