Till the End of Time by Patti Berg
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-380-78339-8
****
I don't read many paranormal romances (although Sara Jarrod's Heaven Above is on my keeper pile) so I'm not sure how fans of the genre will respond to Till the End of Time. My opinion is that, if you can accept the premise of a ghost who has haunted an old hotel for a century waiting for revenge against the man who killed him, then you should enjoy Patti Berg's latest novel. She offers an interesting story with some unexpected twists, an attractive hero and heroine, and a likable ghost. What more could anyone want?

Elizabeth Fitzgerald has come to Sapphire, Montana, to start a new life. At thirty-one, she has had a successful career as a Los Angeles fashion photographer, but a year earlier her beloved home was destroyed in an earthquake and she spent three days trapped in the wreckage. Somehow, the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles no longer satisfied her. So when her brother Eric found an old abandoned hotel in a small Montana town, Elizabeth agreed with his plan to refurbish it and open an inn. The local real estate agent and promoter Matt Winchester promised that his hunting clients would give her a beginning clientele.

Elizabeth arrives in Sapphire one wintry day, sans Eric, who has chosen to marry and stay behind. The first person she meets is Jon Winchester, Matt's cousin and mayor of the town. Jon is immediately suspicious of anyone associated with his cousin, whom he suspects is involved in illegal hunting activities. Still, there is an immediate spark between the two and Jon agrees to help her refurbish the hotel.

Elizabeth is surprised at what she finds in the old hotel. The place is certainly run down, but it is also filled with beautiful antiques and has real potential. She wonders why the place has been abandoned. Of course, the reason is that the hotel is haunted.

The ghost is Alexander Stewart. A hundred years earlier, he had been murdered on his wedding day and accused of robbery and murder. He had been buried in the hotel's basement by his killer, Luke Winchester. Luke had married Alexander's sweetheart three weeks later, thus gaining control of Amanda's fortune. Alexander is unable to leave the hotel's premises and has spent a century yearning to be reunited with his lost love. He also wants revenge against all Winchesters.

Alexander shows himself to Elizabeth because he senses that she can help free him from his imprisonment. As Elizabeth begins to explore the events of a century earlier, she also becomes more and more attracted to Jon and more and more certain that Matt is the true heir of Luke's ruthless ambition.

Berg does a fine job weaving together Alexander's quest for revenge, Jon's and Elizabeth's developing relationship, and the efforts to halt Matt's illegal activities. The plot has enough twists and turns to maintain the reader's interest, and works well, always provided that one accepts the ghostly presence

Elizabeth and Jon make a delightful romantic duo. Both are interesting characters and when they do get together, the sparks become a roaring fire.

Till the End of Time should appeal to readers who enjoy paranormal elements in their romances but who also require a well crafted story. It hasn't converted me into a fan of the genre, but it has helped me understand better its appeal.

--Jean Mason


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