Tag Archives: romantic thriller

Read-a-Chapter: Byzantine Gold, by Chris Karslen

read a chapterRead a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the romantic thriller, Byzantine Gold, by Chris Karslen. Enjoy!


ByzantineGold 500x750 (1)

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A sunken warship from the Byzantine Era carrying an unusual cargo of gold has been found off the coast of Northern Cyprus. News of the valuable cache has attracted the attention of a terrorist cell. They plan to attack the recovery team’s campsite and steal the artifacts. On the Black Market, the sale of the relics will buy them additional weapons.

 Charlotte Dashiell, an American archaeologist, and her lover, Atakan Vadim, a Turkish government agent, are scheduled to be part of the recovery team that brings up the artifacts. While en route to Cyprus, they find themselves caught in the crosshairs of Maksym Tischenko, a Ukrainian contract killer bent on revenge. Charlotte, Atakan and Tischenko share a grim history. As a result, Tischenko is a man who will stop at nothing to achieve his goal—seeing them both dead.


Chapter One


Charlotte and Atakan stopped midway on Sacre-Coeur’s steep staircase to admire the basilica’s architecture. The Romanesque-Byzantine influence reminded her of historical buildings in Istanbul, their home. With the variegated onion-shaped domes and turrets similar to minarets, the church was one of the more unique city structures.

“So beautiful,” Charlotte said, “like an artifact on top of the skyline.” Atakan hadn’t said much as they came up the hill. She wasn’t sure if he was impressed or not.

“Reminds me of an Ottoman wedding cake,” he replied.

“Seeing this makes me anxious to start the recovery project,” Charlotte said, adding, “provided they select me for the team.”

“They will.”

Atakan embraced her from behind and nuzzled her neck, the uber sensitive side, then rested his chin on her head. She giggled, wrapped her arms around his and pressed deeper into his chest. He rarely showed his romantic side in public. Apparently, the romance of Paris had inspired him. She opened her mouth to say as much, but changed her mind. Why spoil the moment?

“You have a taste for Byzantine style jewelry. The Cyprus shipwreck is from that period. Perhaps we’ll get lucky and find a cache of jewelry at the site. You’ll have the opportunity to hold authentic pieces.” He released his embrace and moved next to her. “Shall we?”

A faint shiver trickled down her spine with the loss of his body’s warmth.

They continued to the entrance and inside.

“Let’s go to the dome first,” Charlotte said.

They climbed the narrow, spiral staircase eighty-three meters to the top, holding hands as they strolled along the gallery enjoying the panoramic sight.

Atakan stopped to study the elegant capitals topping the support columns. “Excellent stonework,” he said with is archaeologist’s eye for detail.

She leaned over the railing to people watch. Below her, guides led their clusters of tourists to the apse, famous for its golden mosaics and from there to different quiet corners of the basilica to point out the highlights.

“Charlotte, turn around. Smile.” Atakan played with the camera in his phone for a few seconds then snapped a photo. “I’ll be right back. I want one of the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe.”

She continued to people watch from her birds-eyes view. A lone man in a baseball cap walked up the main aisle. He wore sunglasses in spite of the overcast April sky. He kept his hands in the pockets of his bomber jacket and looked straight ahead, showing no interest in the stain-glass windows or other architectural features.

She turned her attention to the constant stream of worshipers who took seats on pews away from the tour groups. Some knelt and prayed, others sat with eyes closed, their hands folded, and listened to the nuns singing.

A large group of tourists and the lone male approached the chancel, directly below Charlotte. The man stepped aside to allow the guide and her charges to pass. Then, he removed his cap and glasses, looked up at Charlotte, and smiled.

The past terror she’d buried and fought to forget returned with a vengeance. Rocked, she sucked in a fear driven gasp and reflexively jerked back.

She shook off the panic. Angry with herself for the way she reacted and pissed the bastard still had that effect. She peered over the rail again. Maybe she was wrong.

She wasn’t. The same brush-cut hair, the same dimpled smile as he kept his eyes on her, the handsome Slavic face was forever etched in her memory…the face of the man who’d kidnapped and tortured her.

Heart pounding, she spun, dashed to where Atakan snapped pictures and grabbed his arm. “Quick, Tischenko is here.”

“Charlotte—” He followed as she raced down the twisting staircase. Visitors coming from the other direction flattened themselves to the wall, out of her way and his.

When they reached the main floor, Atakan pushed past her and blocked her path. He held her by the upper arms. “Charlotte, stop for a moment. Where did you see him?”

She tried to pull away. “Here—he was walking down the center aisle,” she stressed, searching the faces in the crowd of visitors.

Tischenko was gone.

“I tell you, I saw him.”

Atakan continued to hold onto her as he scanned the aisles and pews. “I don’t see anyone resembling him, let alone the man himself.”

“He must’ve realized we’d chase after him. Come on, he can’t have gone far.” She broke from Atakan and hurried along the aisle with the fewest tourists and out the doors.

She hesitated on the portico. The ever-present musician buskers with their open instrument cases and people resting from the long climb littered the stairs.

Her eyes darted from one person to the next. “He’s wearing a black leather jacket and ball cap. He’s not here. Which way do you think he went?” she asked, turning to Atakan. “Maybe the metro—Abbesses is the closest stop.”

“If I were running from a wild woman, I wouldn’t risk getting caught at a station waiting for a train.”

“I bet he ran through the gardens toward Place Saint-Pierre.” She glanced at her watch. “Almost noon. The square will be swarming with families and lunchtime diners, easy to blend in and get lost.”

She threaded her way through the crowd toward Saint-Pierre. Ahead, a fair-haired man, in a black leather jacket walked at a brisk pace by the merry-go-round playing a tinny version of the Star Wars Theme. Jogging faster, Charlotte caught up to him and yanked on his arm.

The man looked momentarily stunned.

Not Tischenko.

“Pardon monsieur,” Atakan apologized and took Charlotte aside. “Enough!”



“I’d swear—”

“It was not him at the church.”

She hadn’t thought of Tischenko in months. How likely was it for her to imagine seeing him? But if it was him, he did a great job of vaporizing.

She laid her head on Atakan’s shoulder for a long moment. He rubbed her back along the spine until the adrenaline rush passed and she calmed.

“You’re hungry,” she said at last, hearing his stomach rumble. “Le Barouder is charming and nearby.”

“No. We’re not eating anywhere in Montmartre. I don’t want to be in the middle of my food and have to chase after you because you think you’ve seen Tischenko again. We’ll find a café by the hotel.”

“Pretend for a minute, I’m right. It’s—”

If it’s true, his presence here is a coincidence.”

“You don’t believe in coincidence.”

“In this case, I do.” Atakan bent and brushed her lips with a light kiss. “So intelligent and lovely, a pity you are crazy.”

“That’s what makes life with me exciting,” she said, with feigned, wide-eyed innocence.

“I’m not sure exciting is the right word.”

Still uneasy, Charlotte scanned the crowd one last time.

Across the square, Maksym Tischenko stepped from the rear of the crepe vendor’s stall. Atakan and the Dashiell woman returned the way they came. Maksym took side streets that didn’t intersect with the one Atakan and Dashiell were on. At the main avenue, he hailed a cab and instructed the driver to take him to Hotel Du Danube, where the couple was staying.



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Book Review: Shot in the Dark by Jennifer Conner

Jennifer Conner’s latest romantic suspense is a thrilling, steaming read that will be enjoyed by fans of the genre. 

Handsome, sharp-witted, and smartass Devan Burke is a detective working for the LAPD. In the evenings, he likes to keep himself wired up by ordering double espressos from the Naughty Latte stand’s drive-through, especially because of the pretty blond working there. Dev is a loner and blames himself for the death of a kid during a store shootout, during which he was also shot in the leg and, as a result, has been limping and using a cane since then.   

Beautiful and just as sharp-witted and smartass as Dev, Luci Lombard is working at the Naughty Latte stand in order to support herself through school at the University of Chinese Culture and Health Studies. 

One night, only a few minutes after Dev leaves the coffee stand, he receives a message that the place has just been robbed. Back at the stand, he finds a very distraught Luci lying on the floor with her hands tied behind her back. Fortunately, the assailant didn’t have enough time to rape her. Although the robber was wearing a mask, she remembers he was wearing cowboy boots and tattoos on his arm: strange octagon symbols mixed into a vine. Dev offers to bring her to the hospital and then home. 

Since she doesn’t have medical insurance, he very generously pays for her medical bills. To show her appreciation, Luci decides to help Dev with his leg problem so he can get back in active duty. She believes his pain and limp could be improved with the aid of a chiropractor and holistic medicine. Though Dev is skeptical at first, he decides to let Luci help him. Thus, their relationship begins to evolve, rising in intensity as their feelings for each other deepen.

But the man with the tattoos isn’t a simple robber. In fact, he’s a member of the Mafia. And he hasn’t forgotten Luci and is intent on finishing what he started… 

Shot in the Dark is a light, quick, very entertaining read filled with lots of romance and lots of suspense. Having read Conner’s work before, I know she has a soft spot for tortured, imperfect heroes with big hearts who at times suffer a disability. In this case, it’s Dev’s leg and how it affects his self image and self esteem, and how, with a smart and kind heroine, he outgrows those feelings of insecurity. Her heroines are intelligent and independent, yet feminine enough to turn to their heroes for protection when needed. A very nice combination. The story, which moves at a good pace, is mainly told from both from Dev’s and Luci’s points of view, separated by chapters, so the readers get to know the feelings and motivations of both characters. Some chapters are also told from the robber’s point of view. If you’re a fan of romantic suspense, you’ll want to pick this one up. 

You can find more about bestselling author Jennifer Conner and her romantic suspense novels from her website athttp://www.jenniferconnerbooks.com 

Read more reviews and purchase the book from Amazon.

My review was first published in Blogcritics.

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Read a Chapter: ‘Airel’ by Aaron Patterson & Chris White

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring Airel by Aaron Patterson  and Chris White. Ordering information follows. Enjoy!


All Airel ever wanted to be was normal, to disappear into the crowd. But bloodlines can produce surprises, like sudden mysterious illness. Then there’s Michael Alexander, the new guy in school, who is impossibly gorgeous…and captivated by her. Somewhere in the back of her mind she can hear the sound of pages turning, and another, older story being written. It is the story of an ancient family, of great warriors, of the Sword of Light, and the struggle against an evil so terrible, so far-reaching, that it threatens everything she hopes for even now. Airel knew change would be inevitable as life went on. But can she hold on when murder and darkness begin to close in and take away everything she loves? Will she have what it takes when the truth is finally revealed?


Chapter I

Boise, Idaho. Present day.

I woke with that horrid feeling in the pit of my stomach—again. I looked at the clock to see that it was time to drag my sorry butt out of bed. School was the last place I wanted to be today and with the weather starting to get nice again, I dreaded being cooped up in classes all day.

My feet hit the carpet and I sat on the edge of the bed looking at nothing in particular. My body was refusing to respond and it wanted nothing to do with this morning business. Come on Airel, no time to be dragging. I stood up and looked at myself in the mirror that hung on the wall next to the bathroom door. Its rounded corners and unflinching honesty made me wonder if my idea of who I was and what I looked like actually lined up with the truth.

My dark brown hair had just a touch of curl and fell just below my shoulders in crazy tangles. I had thought a thousand times about coloring it—I know, who doesn’t nowadays—but never could bring myself to take that final leap. I was weird about some things and that was one of them. Not that I was against hair coloring or thought anyone who did it was vain or anything. I just liked to know that it was me all the way down to the core.

Dark circles surrounded my boring brown eyes. I had always wanted blue eyes, but oh well. I rubbed at them as if doing that would help me wake up faster. I smiled at my reflection and looked at how my face seemed to light up, then laughed aloud at how ridiculous I must seem to anyone who might be watching. My imaginary fan club…

Whatever! I have a great smile and if I have to use it to wake myself up, so be it!

“Airel! Are you up? School is in ten minutes and you need to eat something. If you keep skipping breakfast then you…” Her words trailed off in a mom-ish rant on the importance of the first meal of the day.

My mom was just that—a mom. She and Dad had a great relationship, which was rare in the world today, what with divorce and deadbeat dads—and deadbeat moms for that matter—running rampant. I was glad at least I could depend on one thing in my life, or so I hoped.

I yelled back, I’m not hungry Mom! Then pulled on my favorite pair of True Religion jeans and a dark blue shirt that I picked up yesterday at the mall. I ran my hand through my hair, pulled half of it back and clamped it down with a funky clip I bought at a small boutique downtown. I slapped on half of my make-up figuring I could finish with eyeliner and mascara in the parking lot before class.

As I pulled back the sheer curtain, looking past the glass and into the front yard, I was glad to see the sun would be making an appearance…well, for today anyway.  Around here the weather was about as reliable as the people who reported it. I packed my backpack with the necessary books, make-up, and extra clothes, just in case we had a running day in gym. Once a week we were forced to run and I ended up sweaty and gross. Ten minutes from the time my feet hit the floor I was in my trusty Honda and on my way to school…or as I like to call it…Hell!

I didn’t really think it was hell, but it had its hell-like days. I was running a little late, even with my record time getting out of the house, and to top it off, I had a wicked craving for a coconut latte.

I looked at the time and decided to just go ahead and commit to my coffee obsession. After all, it was only high school and I had priorities. I pulled into Moxie Java—I was a diehard fan. The gunko, —yep, gunko is not a ‘real’ word, but if I say it, then that makes it real in my world— they served at Starbucks would peel the paint off the walls. I liked good coffee—not burnt gunko.

My car squealed to a stop outside the coffee shop, reminding me once again that I needed to have Dad do the brakes. I should have asked him do it last weekend, but it rained the entire weekend, leaving me stranded at home doing homework. To my dismay, the place was packed. Looks like ‘late’ just turned to ‘criminally late’.

I looked behind the bar and saw that Lacey, my latte buddy, was working today. She smiled at me, feigning a panicked look and nodded to the line of sleepy people she was trying to serve. I came here often enough that she knew me and exactly what I’d be wanting. We had a good relationship worked out. She would have my drink ready before I made it through the line to the register and I always gave her a nice tip for her extra speedy work.

I didn’t dare look at the time but surprisingly, the line seemed to move rather quickly. With latte in hand, I turned doing the hair flip thing. It was supposed to look like I was a pro at the order-pay-and-I’m-out move, but as I turned toward the door as I turned toward the door someone walked through the door and everything in my world came to a screeching halt.

He was a tall boy—man, with spiky, blond hair. As he walked in, I felt my heart jump. It was like destiny. I felt something begin as he filled the doorway. It was like he and I were made for that moment.

He was so perfect and beautiful. He was so perfect and beautifully manly. I could feel my face flush and my heart pound within my chest.

He walked past me as if I didn’t exist and got in line. All at once, I was moving—or falling-who knows. All I know is that I rammed into some poor old guy and proceeded to dump my precious coconut latte all over his coat. “Oh. I’m so sorry. I, uh…”

The short bent-over man looked up at me with amusement and confusion as I pawed clumsily at his wet coat, looking around for some napkins. I felt my heart racing even faster as a hand reached over my shoulder with about ten white napkins. I turned my face and followed the hand up the arm and at the other end of that glorious arm was—him.

The very guy who turned me into a puddle of mush and a fumbling idiot. He smiled and I felt my face grow hot. “Let me…” He said, as he handed the old man the stack of napkins. I could feel my cheeks flush. I wanted to die and I just stood there like a moron with my mouth hanging open.

The old man took the napkins and cleaned up most of the mess. He insisted that it was no big deal. “Happens to the best of us!” he said. He was so nice and looking back on the terrible situation, I wonder who ran into who.

My legs were shaking now and I was freezing. I looked around, then down at my feet where this ever-so-gorgeous-guy was wiping up the spilled coffee. Then he handed me my empty cup.

“Thank-you! I, um…” There they were. My first words to him—oh, wow… what a line of brilliance. What words to utter in this moment. I stood holding my empty cup and he rose and nodded with a smile. Before I knew it, he was gone. Poof! Whoosh! Just gone. I somehow ended up back in my car and on my way to hell, and yes—today it was just about guaranteed to be hell. Argh!

I pulled out my phone and saw that I was not late after all. I was actually two minutes early. How did that happen? Weird. I considered the coffee splatters on my shoes and dismissed the idea that the coffee shop was all some kind of hallucination. I pulled my little Civic into the closest parking space and shook my head. What was that? It was like he had this aura or something that reached into my very soul. I didn’t believe in love at first sight. Well, not necessarily. But this morning was making me think twice about a few things.

His eyes, so blue, and the way he looked at me! It was as if he knew me or knew what I was thinking—how I was feeling.

I ran my fingers through my hair, interlocked them together, and pressed my thumbs into my temples. I didn’t get headaches often but I could feel one coming on.

Two boys that I never talked to… and never would… walked by, staring. Ugh. Some boys are just born clueless. I glanced at myself in the rear view mirror one last time, smoothed my hair, and took a moment—since I had one—to finish my eye makeup. I guess I do feel pretty today. Just clumsy, that’s all.

I headed toward the main building of my school. Lip-gloss could be done on the way… if I didn’t trip trying to walk and do something else at the same time.The smell of golden leaves and morning dew filled the air and I closed my eyes and took in the sweet fragrance as I walked. I loved fall. The colors, the smells, the fresh rain in the morning made me want to break out into song. Lucky for anyone within earshot I kept my composure. No one wanted to hear my melodious voice. Just the idea of cooler weather made me forget my embarrassing morning. I was glad that I would never see that boy again.

I was not what some might call a beautiful girl but I could hold my own if the need arose. The invention of make-up was a great thing, and I was an expert in the use of it. My skin was pale. I guess a nice way to say it would be that my complexion was fair. I had a few too many freckles, though, not to mention the fact that I was short. Not like, “Wow, dude! Check out the circus freak!” But I was just short enough that I got teased relentlessly. I felt self-conscious, but would I ever admit to that? “Cheeya!” I said, out loud, and then checked to see if anyone had heard. I would never admit to it. The teasing would only get worse if I did.

My frame was petite and I had delicate features. On a bad day I would break the hundred-pound mark, so that was at least something. I might not be the hottest girl in school, but I never had to worry about my weight.

I was a little smarter than I let on. I didn’t want to be the smartest kid in school. That was never good. The last thing I needed was to be labeled as a geek, even though I did adore a good book, and had my quirks. I stood out when I wanted to stand out but blended in most of the time.

I liked to learn and I was a good student for the most part. I got A’s and every now and then a B. None of my friends were interested in their grades because they were all too interested in their boyfriends or girlfriends and who was doing what with who, or who broke-up with who… Blah, blah, blah!

The walk from my car to my locker helped to clear my head. The walk and fresh air made me feel better about my day.

I had a few friends that I hung with but for the most part I used them like camouflage. I flew under the radar. I mean, I liked my friends, but only one or two of them were real. Everybody knows this except for dumb guys who can’t even buy a clue. Sometimes I watched all the popular girls, wondering if they actually had brains or if they just ran on batteries, plugging in at night to recharge their ever-so-perfect personalities. No bitterness here!

I made it to class without incident. “Nice shirt.” Kim, my best friend and shopping diva, gave me a mock glare and sat down next to me. “So. You see the new guy yet?” She looked around and lowered her voice as if it was a crime to be interested in someone new to our little school.

“Ah… no. And what does it matter? It’s not like he’s going to talk to us.” I rolled my eyes. I opened up my history book and pretended to read, hoping Kim would drop the subject, but I knew better.

Kim was always so energetic. Most people had good days, bad days, and most people’s moods could go from hot to cold… but not Kim. She was full speed ahead, no on—off switch. I loved her for it! Besides, she helped to keep me looking on the bright side of life.

“Come on girl, when he sees you he’ll fall madly in love and beg you for your hand in marriage!” She giggled and then quieted down as Mr. Brashear started the class. I didn’t respond and Kim didn’t seem to notice. She pretended to read her history book too and began texting whoever she was always texting.

Kim had friends at other schools and they literally texted non-stop. I kicked her leg and she grunted, dropping her phone. It clattered on her desk and I smiled. She shot me a death stare and threatened me under her breath.

I zoned out like I did every time the word history came up. After all, this class was all about what had already been done before. When it was all said and done I couldn’t tell you what the teacher had even said.

But there is one thing I will never forget as long as I live. The person who changed my world forever…

– Book excerpt from Airel. Purchase your copy at Amazon.


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