The Paris Widow by Kimberly Belle

Posted 14 June, 2024 by Heather in Blog, Blog Tour, Book Excerpt, Heather / 0 Comments

Sometimes you think you know the ones you love the most, but it turns out you never knew them at all…
Happy start to the weekend. I have an excerpt from Kimberly Belle’s latest novel, THE PARIS WIDOW. This novel promises to start with a bang and go full steam ahead until the conclusion.




Nice, France

What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.

—Oscar Wilde

At Nice’s Côte d’Azur Airport, the pretty woman coming down the jetway looked like every other bleary-eyed traveler. Rum­pled T-shirt over jeans with an indeterminate stain on the right thigh, hair shoved into a messy ponytail mussed from the head­rest. A backpack was slung over her right shoulder, weighed down with items that weren’t technically hers but looked like they could be. She’d sorted through them on the seven-hour flight, just long enough to make the contents feel familiar.

“Don’t lose it,” the Turkish man said when he hung it on her arm, and she hadn’t.

The jetway dumped her into the terminal, and she trailed behind a family of five, past gates stretched out like spider legs, along the wall of windows offering a blinding view of the sparkling Mediterranean, a turquoise so bright it burned her eyes. The backpack bounced against her shoulder bone, and her heart gave a quiet, little jingle.

She made it through passport control without issue, thanks to her careful selection of the agent behind the glass. A man, first and foremost. Not too old or too young, not too hand­some. A five to her solid eight—or so she’d been told by more than one man. This one must have agreed because he stamped her passport with an appreciative nod. French men were like that. One smile from a woman out of their league, and they melted like a cream-filled bonbon.

She thanked him and slid her passport into her pocket.

In it were stamps to every country in Europe and the Americas, from her crisscrosses over every continent in­cluding Antarctica, from her detours to bask on the famous beaches of Asia, Australia, the South Seas. More than once, she’d had to renew the booklet long before it expired because she’d run out of empty spots for customs agents to stamp. She was particularly proud of that, and of how she could look any way you wanted her to look, be anyone you needed her to be. Today she was playing the role of American Tourist On A Budget.

At baggage claim, she slid the backpack down an aching shoulder and checked the time on her cell. Just under six hours for this little errand, plenty of time assuming she didn’t hit any unexpected roadblocks. If she didn’t get held up at customs, if the taxi line wasn’t too long, if traffic on the A8 wasn’t too awful, which it would be because getting in and out of Monte Carlo was always a nightmare at this time of year. If if if. If she missed the flight to London, she was screwed.

A buzzer sounded, and the baggage carousel rumbled to a slow spin.

At least she didn’t look any more miserable than the people milling around her, their faces long with jet lag. She caught snippets of conversation in foreign tongues, German, Ital­ian, Arabic, French, and she didn’t need a translator to know they were bitching about the wait. The French were never in a hurry, and they were always striking about something. She wondered what it could be this time.

Thirty-eight eternal minutes later, the carousel spit out her suitcase. She hauled it from the band with a grunt, plopped the heavy backpack on top and followed the stream of tour­ists to the exit.

Walk with purpose. Look the customs agent in the eye. Smile, the fleeting kind with your lips closed, not too big or too cocky. Act breezy like you’ve got nothing to prove or to hide. By now she knew all the tricks.

The customs agent she was paired with was much too young for her liking, his limbs still lanky with the leftovers of pu­berty, which meant he had something to prove to the clus­ter of more senior agents lingering behind him. She ignored their watchful gazes, taking in his shiny forehead, the way it was dotted with pimples, and dammit, he was going to be a problem.

He held up a hand, the universal sign for halt. “Avez-vous quelque chose à déclarer?”

Her fingers curled around the suitcase handle, clamping down. She gave him an apologetic smile. “Sorry, but I don’t speak French.”

That part was the truth, at least. She didn’t speak it, at least not well and not unless she absolutely had to. And her rudi­mentary French wasn’t necessary just yet.

But she understood him well enough, and she definitely knew that last word. He was asking if she had something to declare.

The agent gestured to her suitcase. “Please, may I take a look in your luggage?” His English was heavy with accent, his lips slick with spit, but at least he was polite about it.

She gave a pointed look at the exit a few feet away. On the other side of the motion-activated doors, a line of people leaned against a glass-and-steel railing, fists full of balloons and colorful bouquets. With her free hand, she wriggled her fingers in a wave, even though she didn’t know a single one of them.

She looked back at the agent with another smile. “Is that really necessary? My flight was delayed, and I’m kind of in a hurry. My friends out there have been waiting for hours.”

Calm. Reasonable. Not breaking the slightest sweat.

The skin of his forehead creased in a frown. “This means you have nothing to declare?”

“Only that a saleslady lied to my face about a dress I bought being wrinkle resistant.”

She laughed, but the agent’s face remained as stony as ever.

He beckoned her toward an area behind him, a short hall­way lined with metal tables. “S’il vous plait. The second table.”

Still, she didn’t move. The doors slid open, and she flung an­other glance at the people lined up outside. So close yet so far.

As if he could read her mind, the agent took a calculated step to his left, standing between her and the exit. He swept an insistent arm through the air, giving her little choice. The cluster of agents were paying more attention now.

She huffed a sigh. Straightened her shoulders and gave her bag a hard tug. “Okay, but fair warning. I’m on the tail end of a three-week vacation here, which means everything in my suitcase is basically a giant pile of dirty laundry.”

Again, the truth. Miami to Atlanta to LA to Tokyo to Dubai to Nice, a blur of endless hours with crummy movies and soggy airplane food, of loud, smelly men who drank vodka for breakfast, of kids marching up and down the aisles while everybody else was trying to sleep. What she was wearing was the cleanest thing she had left, and she was still thousands of miles from home.

She let go of the handle, and the suitcase spun and wobbled, whacking the metal leg of the table with a hard clang. Let him lug the heavy thing onto the inspection table himself.

She stood with crossed arms and watched him spread her suitcase open on the table. She wasn’t lying about the laundry or that stupid dress, which currently looked like a crumpled paper bag. He picked through her dirty jeans and rumpled T-shirts, rifled through blouses and skirts. When he got to the wad of dirty underwear, he clapped the suitcase shut.

“See?” she said. “Just a bunch of dirty clothes.”

“And your other bag?”

The backpack dangling from her shoulder, an ugly Tumi knockoff. Her stomach dropped, but she made sure to hold his gaze.

“Nothing in here, either. No meat, no cheese, no forgot­ten fruit. I promise.”

She’d done that once, let an old apple sink to the bottom of her bag for a hyped-up beagle to sniff out, and she paid for it with a forty-five minute wait at a scorching Chilean airport. It was a mistake she wouldn’t make again.

Madame, please. Do not make me ask you again.”

The little shit really said it. He really called her madame. This kid who was barely out of high school was making her feel old and decrepit, while in the same breath speaking to her like she was a child. His words were as infuriating as they were alarming. She hooked a thumb under the backpack’s strap, but she didn’t let it go.

And yet what choice did she have? She couldn’t run, not with those senior agents watching. Not with this pubescent kid and his long, grasshopper limbs. He’d catch her in a hot second.

She told herself there was nothing to find. That’s what the Turkish man had promised her with a wink and a smile, that nobody would ever know. He swore she’d cruise right on through customs. And she had, many, many times.

As she slid the backpack from her arm with another dra­matic sigh, she hoped like hell he wasn’t lying. “Please hurry.”

The agent took the bag from her fingers and emptied it out on the table. He took out the paperback and crinkled maga­zines, the half-eaten bag of nuts with the Japanese label, the wallet and the zippered pouch stuffed with well-used cosmet­ics that had never once touched her face. He lined the items up, one after the other, until the contents formed a long, neat row on the shiny metal surface. The backpack hung in his hand, deflated and empty.

She lifted a brow: See?

But then he did something she wasn’t expecting. He turned the backpack upside down, just…upended the thing in the air. Crumbs rained onto the table. A faded receipt fluttered to the ground.

And there it was, a dull but discernible scraping sound, a sudden weight tugging at the muscles in his arm, like some­thing inside the backpack shifted.

But nothing else fell out. There were no internal pockets.

“What was that?”

“What was what?” With a clanging heart, she pointed to the stuff on the table. “Can I put that back now? I really have to go.”

The agent stared at her through a long, weighted silence, like a held breath.


He slapped the backpack to the table, and she cringed when he shoved a hand in deep, all the way up to his elbow. He felt around the sides and the bottom, sweeping his fingers around the cheap polyester lining. She saw when he made contact with the source of the noise by the way his face changed.

The muscles in her stomach tightened. “Excuse me, this is ridiculous. Give it back.”

The agent didn’t let go of the backpack. He reached in his other hand, and now there was another terrifying sound—of fabric, being ripped apart at the seams.

“Hey,” she said, lunging for the backpack.

He twisted, blocking her with his body.

A few breathless seconds later he pulled it out, a small, flat object that had been sewn into the backpack lining. Small enough to fit in the palm of his hand. Almost like he’d been looking for it.

“What is this?” he said, holding it in the air between them.

“That’s a book.” It was the only thing she could think of to say, and it wasn’t just any book. It was a gold-illuminated manu­script by a revered fourteenth-century Persian poet, one of the earliest copies from the estate of an Islamic art collector who died in Germany last year. Like most of the items in his collec­tion, this one did not technically belong to him.

“I can see it’s a book. Where did you get it?”

Her face went hot, and she had to steady herself on the metal table—the same one he was settling the book gently on top of. He turned the gold-leafed paper with careful fin­gers, and her mind whirled. Should she plead jet lag? Cry or pretend to faint?

“I’ve never seen it before in my life.”

This, finally, was the truth. Today was the first time she’d seen the book with her own eyes.

The agent looked up from the Arabic symbols on the page, and she didn’t miss the gotcha gleam in his eyes. The way his shiny forehead had gone even shinier now, a million new pin­pricks of satisfied sweat. His gaze flitted over her shoulder, and she understood the gesture perfectly.

He was summoning backup.

She was wondering about French prison conditions.

His smile was like ice water on her skin. “Madame, I must insist you come with me.”


Excerpted from THE PARIS WIDOW by Kimberly Belle. Copyright © 2024 by Kimberly Belle. Published by Park Row Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.



On Sale: June 11, 2024; 368 Pages, Harlequin Trade Publishing/Park Row Books

From USA Today bestselling author Kimberly Belle comes a deliciously twisty new thriller following a married couple vacationing in Paris whose trip takes a dark turn when the husband goes missing, dredging up secrets from both of their pasts, perfect for fans of THE PARIS APARTMENT.

When Stella met Adam, she felt like she finally landed a nice, normal guy – a welcome change from her previous boyfriend and her precarious jetsetter lifestyle with him. She loves knowing she can always depend on Adam, which is why when he goes missing during a random explosion in Paris, she panics. Right after what is assumed to be a terrorist attack, she’s interviewed live on TV by reporters, begging anyone who knows anything about her husband’s whereabouts to come forward and is quickly dubbed “The Paris Widow.”

As the French police investigate, it’s revealed that Adam was on their radar as a dealer in the black market for priceless antiquities, making deals with very high-profile and dangerous clients. Reeling from this news and growing suspicions about her husband, Stella can’t shake the feeling that she’s being followed. And with Adam assumed dead, she realizes that whoever was responsible for the bombing will come after her next. Everything – and everyone — that Stella has tried to keep in her duplicitous past might be her only means of survival and finding out what really happened to Adam.

An irresistible and fast-paced read set in some of Europe’s most inviting locales, THE PARIS WIDOW explores how sinister secrets of the past stay with us – no matter how far we travel.


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | | HarperCollins | Goodreads

About Kimberly Belle

Kimberly Belle worked in marketing and nonprofit fundraising before turning to writing fiction. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Kimberly lived for over a decade in the Netherlands and currently divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam. She is the bestselling author of The Marriage Lie, Three Days Missing, Dear Wife, as well as The Last Breath, The Ones We Trust, Stranger in the Lake, My Darling Husband, and The Personal Assistant.


Connect with Kimberly Belle

Twitter | Website | Instagram | Goodreads 



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I'm a PhD chemist who loves sarcasm, music, and books-paranormal, mystery, thriller, suspense, horror, and romance. Most of my free time is spent at the martial arts studio these days--whether practicing Combat Hapkido or reading books while watching my son's Taekwondo classes, or even working up a sweat with Kickboxing for fun. Goodreads

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