cover image The Ghost

The Ghost

Danielle Steel. Delacorte Press, $25.95 (360pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31695-8

Sometimes it takes a touch of the supernatural to bring true love to a heartbroken man. That's the gist of Steel's 41st novel, a predictable romantic saga that bounces back from the 20th century to the late 1700s. After Charlie Waterson's wife asks for a divorce, and he is unwillingly transferred by his architectural firm from London to New York City, he takes a leave of absence to try to find inner peace. The sympathetic landlady of a Massachusetts B&B loans him a house that has been in her family for two centuries. A small chateau done in exquisite taste, it was built for an English countess--Sarah Ferguson, who had fled her abusive husband--by her French lover, Fran ois de Pellerin. After Sarah's ghost appears in his bedroom, Charlie finds her journals, and is enthralled by her courage as he reads her descriptions of spousal abuse and other hardships (six miscarriages, a perilous voyage from England to Boston, homesteading among warring Indians and settlers). Sarah also describes the vicissitudes of her love affair with the dashing Pellerin--passionate but forbidden, since both are married to others. Soon, Charlie is inspired to cast off his ex-wife's lingering hold on his emotions and to acknowledge the woman he truly loves. Steel's familiar, formulaic plotting is only minimally enhanced by superficially researched local color and historical references. The ending is never in doubt, and Steel's fans may wish that she too had been offered some paranormal inspiration. Doubleday Book Club and Literary Guild main selections; simultaneous BBD audio. (Nov.)