The spine of Stephanie Bond's Kill the Competition declares it as Romantic Suspense, but it is more suspense than romance. In fact, the romance also has to compete with the lead character learning to bond with the women who are members of her carpool.
Belinda Hennessey moved to Atlanta from Cincinnati after her fiancé's abrupt change of heart left her without a husband. She has only been at her new job for a few months. She knows no one in Atlanta and has a long commute each day to the city from the suburbs. When three women from her office ask her to join their carpool, she agrees despite her usual tendency to be very independent. She also needs to save money.
On her first morning with the carpool, she is the driver. She is running late, the traffic is bad and she is distracted. She runs into a stopped police car. Officer Wade Alexander gives her three tickets but also changes the flat tire she received during the accident. When the women finally get to work, they are all late. Belinda has missed an important meeting and her boss, Margo, is furious. Margo is not a favorite of any of the women or of most of the staff. When Margo tries to berate Belinda in front of several staff members, Belinda stands up to her and then walks way. Margo follows and secretly offers her the chance for a possible promotion under some questionable circumstances.
Belinda finds that trying to relate more to people is complicated. All three of the women have personal and work problems and expect her to listen and be supportive. Julian Hardeman, the traffic reporter from one of Atlanta's radio stations, also notices her. Plus, Officer Alexander starts showing interest as well. After her disastrous almost-marriage, she is flattered and afraid about the attention from both of these men. Add to the mix the pressure from Margo's shady way of working and a collision course is set.
When Belinda finds Margo's body in the trunk of her car, the stakes escalate. In the tradition of the old Perry Mason shows, the dead person was actively disliked by many people, including all four of the women, so the possible suspects are numerous. Officer Alexander tries to help Belinda, but has to be careful not to get pulled from the case.
The author does a good job of concealing the killer until the very end. The only people I was sure had not killed Margo were Belinda and one other person. Several others were strong candidates for quite a while. She added extra suspense because Belinda also has several scary incidents occur that might or might not be accidents.
The romance part of the plot seemed rather incidental. The interaction with the women in the carpool had more depth than the romance. Even these relationships could only be shown from Belinda's point of view because to make the suspense work, the author couldn't allow the inner workings for anyone else's mind to be clearly stated.
If you want a little suspense with your romance, this is not for you. If you like suspense with a little romance and a little female bonding, you will probably enjoy this one.
--B. Kathy Leitle