Timeless Spring by Sandra Davidson, Cynthia Thomason, & Lisa Plumley
(Zebra, $5.50, PG) ISBN 0-8217-6148-X
**
This anthology of three time-travel stories is a mixed bag. I'm afraid that I found none of the stories particularly captivating, and one was downright annoying. Perhaps the romance pundits are right and time-travel is on its way out.

The book opens with "Beyond the Call" by Sandra Davidson. Surgeon Amanda Davis is on vacation, visiting a Civil-War archaeological dig with her sister (they are letting her assist with the dig) and staying at a renovated B and B. Amanda anguishes over her late husband's death and her own foster-home upbringing, and while she's wallowing in guilt, she finds that the ghost of Captain Kenneth Campbell haunts her room. He died shortly after the Battle of Shiloh and left a small child behind, supposedly later murdered by an evil aunt. When the wounded Captain appears in her bedroom, Amanda pulls out her handy surgeon's kit only to find herself transported back to the Civil War.

The lead characters in this novella irritated me. They snipe and carp at each other, and then find themselves overcome with passion. Kenneth can't comprehend this spoiled woman who doesn't even know how to prime a pump; Amanda finds his manner overbearing and doesn't hesitate to tell him so, over and over. By the time they manage to get themselves back to Ken's family home and the evil Rhoda, I'd had about enough of them both. On top of that, the scheming sister-in-law is so transparently villainous, and Ken is so patently unaware of it, that it made him seem rather thickheaded. It just didn't work for me. One heart.

"Chances Are" by Lisa Plumley, fares some better, though the heroine is again from a foster home and looking for love. (Didn't these authors compare notes?) Haley Madison is a genealogical researcher who has come to the town of Landslide, Arizona, to investigate one Matt Chance, 19th century mine owner. When she enters the mansion on a guided tour, Haley impulsively steals a crystal perfume bottle out of the bedroom and finds herself transported back to the 1800s when she attempts to leave the house. Again, we have two children looking for a mother figure and a hero who is sure she'll leave just like all the other women he's known.

This was an okay read, though the best part was the ending. Not that I was racing to finish it, but rather the author used a fun plot element with that perfume bottle to resolve the dilemma of "go or stay," and by that point in the story, I had pretty much forgotten about the bottle. The characters aren't as memorable, especially Matt with his "all women leave" mentality. Two hearts.

The final story, "Come the Spring" by Cynthia Thomason, was the best of the lot. Joanna Archer stops at a garage sale on Saturday and finds herself drawn to an old family photo album. She buys it, takes it home, and can't get the pictures out of her thoughts. Soon she's putting off plans with her boorish yuppie boyfriend and traveling to Pinkney Falls, Georgia, to find the descendants of Lila Gallagher Hardesty and whatever remains of the Hardesty homestead.

Joanna finds more than she plans. Her car dies at the end of an overgrown road, and when Joanna tries to cross a ravine, she's enveloped in fog and comes out in the 1890s. Lila Hardesty is there, all right, as well as her handsome grandson, Clayton. Clayton is charming in his old-fashioned refusal to compromise Joanna, and Joanna's use of her wits in temporarily returning to the 1990s to secure the future is rather ingenious. Three hearts.

Okay, you do the math. Averaged out, I can't give Timeless Spring a wholehearted recommendation, but die-heard time-travel fans may feel this is worth a look.

--Cathy Sova


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