Thursday, February 2, 2012

Review of "Promise Me This" by Cathy Gohlke

Rating: 4 Stars
~  ~  ~

Synopsis from Tyndale: 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.

Review: The Titanic has held fascination for me since I was in elementary school; so I was excited to discover Promise Me This. There is a degree of romanticism amid the tragedy of the Titanic, but Cathy Gohlke shows us the tale from a new vantage point: the sacrificial love of a third class passenger and the lives impacted by his loss.  Promise Me This is a love story on many different levels, which makes it a touching novel.  Owen Allen, Annie Allen, and Michael Dunnagan are the pivotal characters impacted by the sinking of the Titanic.  Although Owen was only physically alive for a portion of the novel, he remains a powerful  and inspiring character throughout the novel.  I was particularly  touched by Owen's strength of character and his devotion to his loved ones, as well as Michael's determination to carry out Owen's dreams. I formed a lasting connection to both characters as they traveled on the doomed Titanic.  Although I knew the final outcome of the first portion of the story, I was kept on edge as the Titanic and many of her passengers faced death.  Gohlke describes the event in realistic and heartbreaking detail.

Fortunately, Promise Me This is also a story of hope and survival. The sinking of theTitanic is only the beginning. Through the pages, we are taken from America to England as Michael and Annie forge their lives separately after the death of a beloved friend and brother.  Their pain and emotions are real and raw, but the love and healing they find through their correspondence is sweet and bright.  While Michael strives to carry out Owen's dream in America, Annie struggles to find happiness and a life free from her cruel Aunt's grasp. Her Aunt's hatred runs deep, and the depth is revealed as the novel progresses.  

Just when it seems Annie can finally escape to America, World War I erupts in Europe. Those readers who, like me, are watching the current season of Downton Abbey, will find some similarities in the references to World War I. The second half of the novel focuses on the war, and finds both Annie and Michael tending the injured. Once again, Annie is subjected to cruelties orchestrated by her Aunt, some of which I felt were unrealistic.  But, it did provide for a fast moving plot set on the front lines of a French battlefield. I felt less connected to Annie and Michael during the last half of the novel, perhaps because parts of the story were told from the perspective of other secondary characters, some of whom were introduced in the last 100 pages.  The last 50 pages moved slowly for me, but the conclusion was full of love and promises fulfilled.  A happy ending to a novel that focused on two painful events in our history.    

About the Author: 
Cathy Gohlke is the two-time Christy Award-winning author of William Henry Is a Fine Name and I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires.  She lives with her husband on the banks of the Laurel Run in Elkton, Maryland.

Visit Cathy Gohlke's Website:
Read more about Promise Me This at
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


  1. Thank you so much for your review of "Promise Me This." I'm glad you connected with Michael and Annie--they're so much like all of us.
    I'm enjoying the similarities in Downton Abbey, too--a wonderful series!

    1. I am glad to see more focus on the World War I era in novels and movies. I love historical fiction and this is a refreshing departure from the usual time periods. Thank you for visiting our blog and featuring it on your Facebook page.

  2. The story of Titanic has always fascinated me. Especially all of the people whose hopes and dreams went down with the unsinkable ship. What intrigued me about Promise Me This, is that it is a story that not only deals with the tragedy of Titanic, but continues the story beyond what happened that fateful day. Just as the families of those who died on Titanic and also the real survivors had to deal with the reality of WWI breaking out, the characters of Promise Me This are drug through the tragedy of war erupting in Europe. A war that changed the world forever.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...