Linda Lovely launches With Neighbors Like These, An HOA Mystery . . . Check out her Partners In Crime Book Tour!
Author Interview + Author & Book Info + Rafflecopter Giveaway
With Neighbors Like These by Linda Lovely
HOA CORPSE STAGED TO SHOCK…
An arrow pierces a corpse’s chest. A trophy deer head’s dumped in the dead hunter’s lap. Not your typical yard art in a wealthy homeowners association. The posed homicide freaks out neighbors, and Ted Welch asks Kylee Kane, a retired Coast Guard investigator, to help his HOA management company address owner fears. The stakes become personal when Kylee’s mother gets death threats over her crusade to stop a horde of hunters from invading the HOA’s nature sanctuary.
ANOTHER DEATH SPARKS HOA=DOA PANIC…
A second murder in a different HOA and bizarre attacks in other neighborhoods spark panic. The local sheriff’s department blames Ted for letting HOA disputes spiral into homicide. Kylee isn’t convinced, and searches for links between victims to uncover the killer’s motive and identity. The investigation puts Kylee in the executioner’s crosshairs.
Kylee learns a controversial general is cast as the next murder victim. Can Kylee foil this newest act in the killer’s death-as-theater game?
To purchase With Neighbors Like These, click on any of the following links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble & Goodreads
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: July 13th 2021
Number of Pages: 312
Series: HOA Mystery Series, Book 1
The Interview with Linda Lovely
Tell us about Kylee Kane:
Kylee Kane is a fifty-year-old retired Coast Guard investigator. She’s athletic, outspoken and smart. She retired early to help her mother, Myrt, who lives on fictional Hullis Island, through her cancer ordeal.
Now that Myrt is in remission, she doesn’t need (or want) her daughter hovering about.
Trying to decide what to do in the next stage of life, Kylee’s taking law enforcement courses and toying with the idea of becoming a private investigator.
When Ted Welch, a life-long friend, asks her to join his HOA management firm as a security consultant, Kylee finds the offer has definite appeal.
Describe the South Carolina Lowcountry for us and tell us why you chose that as the location for With Neighbors Like These?
My husband and I lived in the Lowcountry for twelve years and I try to return for annual visits.
I love the area for its natural beauty, historic charm, and diversity. Since my heroine is a retired Coast Guard investigator, I decided she should live on a boat and the Downtown Beaufort Marina was a natural choice.
There are many residential enclaves in the area, making it easy to invent fictional HOA communities—small to large—that appeal to different types of owners.
To the best of my knowledge, Lowcountry HOAs are no more prone to controversy than HOAs in any other section of the country.
How did your background with HOAs inspire this story?
I’ve lived in four HOAs, and served as a secretary, vice president and president.
I also joined a lawsuit against one.
Most HOA residents I know have shared at least one HOA story—be it horror or humor. An HOA’s potential for good or harm largely depends on the ethics, personalities, and agendas of the people elected as directors.
You write a number of different mystery series along with standalone romance and suspense. Do you approach each project the same way? Or is your process different each time?
Usually it starts with an idea for a heroine—her talents, quirks, and weaknesses. I also know the locale where the book needs to be set, and I have a vague notion of the plot—why someone is targeting the heroine and/or a solid reason for my character to be investigating a crime.
I’m a seat-of-the-pants plotter. The plot with all its twists unfold as I write. I do a lot of research along the way.
For this book, I interviewed Coast Guard retirees and visited a variety of websites to flesh out my heroine’s background and skills.
If you were in a mystery as a character, would you be the killer, the victim, or the sidekick? Or is there another role you’d play?
I’d rather not be the victim, and I’d hope circumstances didn’t turn me into a killer. However, since I lack the skills or bravery to be one of my heroines, I’d love to be a wisecracking sidekick.
What are you working on now?
The second book in the HOA Mystery Series.
On an early morning sail, Kylee, her friend, Ted, and his son, Grant, rescue six individuals stranded after a party boat doesn’t return to pick up the beachcombers. After the rescue, Kylee finds the party boat, but the captain and remaining passengers are missing.
A developer arranged the outing hoping to impress a group of HOA presidents and their spouses. Why were these HOA honchos kidnapped? Kylee needs to solve that mystery to keep them alive.
Words of wisdom for aspiring writers.
Keep writing and trying to improve your craft. Persistence rather than innate talent is the defining characteristic of most published authors.
The Excerpt from With Neighbors Like These by Linda Lovely
Friday, September 25, 6:30 p.m.
“Mom, are we eating at the kitchen table?”
I look outside. Mom’s standing by the mailbox, tugging on the blue stocking cap that keeps her nearly-bald head warm.
Crap. I said I’d get the mail. She’s a stubborn old cuss. While her skin now looks like wrinkle-mapped parchment, those cagey blue eyes still flash.
Mom stops midway to the house to read something. A postcard? She looks up. Her expression is one I rarely see. Fear? Distress? Definitely bad news.
Ted’s Mustang pulls into the drive, and Mom stuffs whatever worried her into a pocket. Ted jumps out, and Mom’s thin arms embrace him.
Thirty years ago, Ted was my kid brother’s pimpled, bratty best friend, a snot-nosed pest. Last year, when we met up again in the Lowcountry, I couldn’t believe it. These days he could model for GQ. A lot happens when decades pass between sightings.
I open the front door. Mom’s slightly out of breath as Ted helps her up the stairs. While her cancer’s in retreat, chemo has taken a toll.
Ted glances my way and grins.
“Hi, Kylee. See you’re still having trouble getting your mother to behave. Bet you long for those Coast Guard days when you could give orders and know they’d be obeyed.”
“Yep, some days I’m sorry I retired,” I answer.
Mom waves her hand like she’s shooing flies. “Let’s talk about something interesting. Ted, what do you hear from your son?”
“Grant’s great, sends lots of love. Says your care package made life worth living last week. Freshman year’s tough at the Citadel.”
At six-feet, Ted towers over my five-foot-two mother. Though he’s forty-seven, three years my junior, only a hint of silver threads his thick black hair. His hazel eyes seem to change color with his mood or maybe it’s just the light. Tonight, they’re green.
Ted looks worried as he studies Mom. He was eight when his own mother died. After that Mom included him in all our family activities. He loves Mom as much as I do.
During our kitchen table dinner, he regales us with tales of HOA intrigue to lift Mom’s spirits. Since his management company has more than a dozen homeowner associations as clients, his supply of stories seems endless.
“Once upon a time, there were three neighbors,” he begins. “RulesALot is convinced his neighbor, DoggyDo, is harboring three mutts, one more than the two-pet-per-household limit. Since he can’t see over his hedge to prove it, RulesALot launches a spy drone. A pilot he’s not. His drone crashes in ToplessTina’s backyard, who’s suing him as a Peeping Tom. Of course, there’s only one question on every male owner’s mind: Did the drone snap photos of Tina’s tatas before it nosedived?”
Ted’s eyebrows wiggle up and down, and Mom laughs. “Your HOA stories are certainly entertaining.”
“Believe me, the stories are a lot funnier if you’re not expected to wade into the middle of the skirmishes. Never dreamed HOAs would be tougher to manage than U.S. embassies on hostile soil.”
Mom fiddles with her napkin. “Speaking of neighborhood feuds, I have a confession. I figured you’d be scolding me by now, Ted, since you manage our HOA …”
Ted and I look at each other. Uh oh.
“What did you do?” Ted asks.
“I told the moron Hullis Island directors I’ll sue if they don’t let us vote on what happens to our deer. Emailed copies to all 1,123 owners.”
I reach across the table and squeeze Mom’s hand. Though I agree with her, she needs to focus on regaining strength, not leading a crusade. “Oh, Mom, kicking over a hornets’ nest isn’t part of your cancer recovery regimen.”
Mom’s eyes narrow. “Hey, everyone else bitched and nothing happened. Figured a lawsuit threat might make their little sphincters tighten, and they’d pay attention.”
Mom switches to a fake, shaky geezer voice. “I’m a little old lady, their nightmare plaintiff. Who’s going to go off on some sick, elderly lady?”
Ted’s eyebrows lift. “Exactly what did your email say?”
“Told ’em their plan to shoot our almost-tame deer with no vote on who, what, when, or how was plain wrong. Hullis Island is a nature sanctuary. They can’t unilaterally declare an open hunting season without an island vote to change our covenants.”
Ted shakes his head. “Myrt, I told the board the same thing, though a bit more diplomatically. The directors sided with Cliff, the board president, and his expert, some lawyer drinking buddy, who found a no-vote loophole after they’d tipped a few.”
He shrugs. “Welch HOA Management offers advice, but we’re hired help. Clients call the shots.”
“What loophole?” I butt in. “Don’t the covenants require a vote on any change to the island’s status as a nature sanctuary?”
Ted nods. “Cliff’s citing a provision that allows killing protected animals if they pose a threat to human life.”
I roll my eyes. “What? They say zombie deer are preparing to ambush humans? That exception allows trapping rabid raccoons or aggressive alligators, not shooting starving deer.”
“I cornered Barb Darrin, a director I thought had sense,” Mom says. “Her justification? Deer carry ticks, a health hazard, and they can crash into golf carts.”
Mom sighs. “Everyone agrees the herd’s out of control. Doesn’t give these arrogant SOBs the right to sanction a Wild West killing spree. Sure as shoot, some bozo will mistake a human or a big dog for a deer and fire away. You won’t be able to throw a rock without hitting some guy in camo with a high-powered rifle.”
Ted taps his spoon against his coffee mug. “Myrt, what aren’t you telling us?”
“Well…” She shrugs. “Seems one wannabe deer killer has no qualms about threatening old ladies.” She pulls the crumpled card from the pocket of her baggy sweater. “Found this love note in my mailbox.”
Good grief. That’s what she stuffed in her pocket.
Ted snatches what looks like some movie-maker’s idea of a ransom note. Black-and-white newsprint cut and pasted on a postcard.
“What a nice closing line.” Ted reads, “‘It’s time us hunters declare open season on diseased deer and busybody bitches like Myrtle Kane.’” He turns the card over to look at the front. “Did this come in an envelope?”
“No, just lying in the box.”
“Mom! This is dangerous. Either I’m moving back in with you or you’re coming to live with me.”
“Nonsense,” she scoffs. “It’s pure bluster. Took a year to convince you I’m healthy enough to live alone. Anyway, I get seasick just thinking about sleeping on your boat. No-sir-ee, you can’t dynamite me out of this house.”
Ted raises his palm in a hold-it gesture. “Myrt, do you think Dan Finley pasted this up?”
She shakes her head. “While I’m convinced he’s our Grass Slayer, it’s not his MO to cut up newsprint and issue threats. More his style to use that big commercial sprayer of his to ruin the Quaids’ lawn tonight.”
I frown. “The Quaids who live cattycorner? What does Finley have against them?”
“They’re one of the couples leading the ‘Save Bambi’ drive.”
“But why would Finley do something tonight?”
“The Quaids are in Savannah for their son’s wedding,” Mom answers.
Ted sets down his mug. “You may be right about Finley seizing the opportunity.”
Mom chimes in. “The deer have cost him big bucks. The poor starving creatures devour plants like I eat chocolates. Plants he’s guaranteed. His nursery and landscaping business is hurting. He blames folks like the Quaids, who put out buckets of corn to keep the deer alive.”
“Last week, herbicide messages were left on the lawns of two other deer lovers who were out of town,” Ted adds. “Dead yellow grass shows up quite nicely against a field of green Bermuda blades.”
“What kind of messages?” I ask.
Mom shrugs. “One lawn read, ‘Up yours!’ He was more artistic on the other lawn, drew a fist with an extended middle finger.”
I laugh in spite of my worries that Finley might be Mom’s new enemy.
Mom purses her lips. “Sure, it sounds like juvenile hijinks, but the anger’s palpable. Folks who golfed or played bridge together no longer speak. That’s why I’m adamant we need a vote. Then, win or lose, everyone has a say, and we can move on. It’s called democracy.”
“Speaking of democracy, I propose a kitchen vote,” Ted says. “All in favor of Kylee and me staking out the Quaids’ yard tonight raise your hands. That overgrown lot across the street offers a view of their place. Maybe we can catch Dan Finley at work.”
While I’m skeptical a one-night stakeout will succeed, that vacant lot also offers a perfect view of Mom’s mailbox. And I’m all for hanging around to catch anyone delivering hate mail.
Ted and I raise our hands. Mom harrumphs.
“Just what will you do if Dan Finley does drop by?” she asks.
“Video him doing the evil deed.” Ted smiles. “My new phone takes excellent photos in low light.”
Mom grumbles, but won’t argue with our kitchen table vote, a Kane family tradition.
“Just when do you intend to sneak off in the woods?”
Ted glances at his watch. “Say an hour? I doubt Finley would chance a drive-by while folks are still drifting home from dinner at the club.”
“Good. I’ll change into some old clothes and sneakers I left here before I was evicted.”
Ted looks ready for a Southern Living picture shoot in his tan chinos, button-down shirt, and polished loafers. “You sacrificing your HOA meeting duds for this outing?”
His hazel eyes twinkle. “Nope,” Ted answers. “I was a Boy Scout. Your dad, our scoutmaster, taught us well. I have running clothes in the trunk.”
A journalism major in college, Linda Lovely has spent most of her career working in PR and advertising—an early introduction to penning fiction.
With Neighbors Like These is Lovely’s ninth mystery/suspense novel. Whether she’s writing cozy mysteries, historical suspense or contemporary thrillers, her novels share one common element—smart, independent heroines. Humor and romance also sneak into every manuscript.
Her work has earned nominations for a number of prestigious awards, ranging from RWA’s Golden Heart for Romantic Suspense to Thriller Nashville’s Silver Falchion for Best Cozy Mystery.
A long-time member of Sisters in Crime and former chapter president, Lovely also belongs to International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America. For many years, she helped organize the Writers’ Police Academy.
She lives on a lake in Upstate South Carolina with her husband, and enjoys swimming, tennis, gardening, long walks, and, of course, reading.
To learn more about Linda, click on her name, photo, or any of the following links: Goodreads, BookBub: @LindaLovely, Twitter: @LovelyAuthor & Facebook: @LindaLovelyAuthor
Visit all the stops on Linda Lovely’s Partners In Crime Book Tour!
07/12 Guest post @ Novels Alive
07/13 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader
07/14 Guest post @ The Book Divas Reads
07/14 showcase @ Books, Ramblings, and Tea
07/14 Showcase @ The Reading Frenzy
07/15 Guest post @ I Read What You Write
07/16 Interview @ Author Elena Taylors Blog
07/17 Review @ The Book Review Crew
07/17 Showcase @ Im All About Books
07/19 Showcase @ Archaeolibrarian – I Dig Good Books!
07/20 Review @ Buried Under Books
07/20 Review @ sunny island breezes
07/21 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews
07/22 Review @ Cassidys Bookshelves
07/23 Interview @ A Blue Million Books
07/25 Review @ Margaret Yelton
07/26 Review @ Quiet Fury Books
07/27 Interview @ Cozy Up With Kathy
07/28 Showcase @ CMash Reads
07/29 Review @ BooksChatter
07/30 Review @ Cozy Up With Kathy
07/31 Review @ @ rozierreadsandwine
08/03 Review @ @ jay. rae. reads
08/04 Showcase @ 411 ON BOOKS, AUTHORS, AND PUBLISHING NEWS
08/04 Showcase @ The Authors Harbor
08/05 Review @ A Room Without Books is Empty
08/06 Review @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews
Elena Taylor is the author of All We Buried, available now in print, e-book, and audio book format at all your favorite on-line retailers. And don’t forget many independent bookstores can order books for you and have them shipped to your home or for curbside pickup.
For more information on All We Buried, click on the link here to visit the home page.
Foreword INDIE Award Finalist, Best Mystery 2020