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Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke
Tyndale House Publishers, 20 January 2012


Michael Dunnagan was never supposed to sail on the Titanic, nor would he have survived if not for the courage of Owen Allen. Determined to carry out his promise to care for Owen’s relatives in America and his younger sister, Annie, in England, Michael works hard to strengthen the family’s New Jersey garden and landscaping business.


Annie Allen doesn’t care what Michael promised Owen. She only knows that her brother is gone—like their mother and father—and the grief is enough to swallow her whole. As Annie struggles to navigate life without Owen, Michael reaches out to her through letters. In time, as Annie begins to lay aside her anger that Michael lived when Owen did not, a tentative friendship takes root and blossoms into something neither expected. Just as Michael saves enough money to bring Annie to America, WWI erupts in Europe. When Annie’s letters mysteriously stop, Michael risks everything to fulfill his promise—and find the woman he’s grown to love—before she’s lost forever.


The very first thing I liked about Promise Me This is its short chapters. Made it easy for a busy mum to get through it as I was able to slip in a whole chapter here and there between chopping carrots and refereeing disputes.  It meant less disruption to the flow of the story than if I’d been constantly putting it down mid-chapter.  Cathy’s writing is tight and effective, easily painting the pictures of the historic setting without superfluity.


Promise Me This is a love story – true, sacrificial and enduring love, with a good dose of romance thrown in for good measure! It’s full of endearing – and loathsome – characters, entwined in the dramatic and life-changing period of history in the sinking of Titanic, and WWI.


Owen is a compassionate and caring man.  His ability to put the needs of others before his is the catalyst behind the story, and his enduring legacy brings hope and healing to many.  Annie has to overcome her anger and bitterness, and Michael his painful past and guilt.  The book brings them both through a journey of reflection, searching and finally surrender at the foot of the cross.  It’s done so naturally and eloquently that nothing feels forced onto the reader.


There’s a positively heart stopping battlefield rendezvous that left me holding my breath for goodness knows how long. Shortly after, I reached a point the book where I thought I could go no further.  I anticipated the heartache and the tears (the characters’ and mine!) and wondered if I could put myself through it.  But of course I could – I had to – because you can’t just stop a book like this.  You have to read on, get through the tragedy in order to come out the other side with hope.


There was just one problem with the story; at the end – I needed just a bit more.  Just a bit more to describe the emotion, a bit more of a sampling of the happily-ever-after.

But otherwise I loved the period, loved the characters and loved their story.

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