The Promise

( 85 )


Young architect Michael Hillyard and artist Nancy  McAllister are determined to get married despite  his wealthy mother's disapproval. Then, minutes  before their wedding, a terrifying accident and a  cruel deception separate Michael and Nancy —  perhaps forever. Each pursues a new life — Nancy in  California, Michael in New York. But eventually  nothing — and no one — can keep them apart as  they ...

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Young architect Michael Hillyard and artist Nancy  McAllister are determined to get married despite  his wealthy mother's disapproval. Then, minutes  before their wedding, a terrifying accident and a  cruel deception separate Michael and Nancy —  perhaps forever. Each pursues a new life — Nancy in  California, Michael in New York. But eventually  nothing — and no one — can keep them apart as  they keep their vow never to say good-bye.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440170792
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/28/1989
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 173,730
  • Product dimensions: 4.14 (w) x 6.88 (h) x 0.77 (d)

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Chapter One

The early morning sun streamed across their backs as they unhooked their bicycles in front of Eliot House on the Harvard campus.  They stopped for a moment to smile at each other.  It was May and they were very young.  Her short hair shone in the sunshine, and her eyes found his as she began to laugh.

"Well, Doctor of Architecture, how do you feel?"

"Ask me that in two weeks after I get my doctorate." He smiled back at her, shaking a lock of blond hair off his forehead.

"To hell with your diploma, I meant after last night" She grinned at him again, and he rapidly swatted her behind.

"Smartass.  How do you feel, Miss McAllister? Can you still walk?" They were hitching their legs over the bicycles now and she looked back at him teasingly in answer.

"Can you?" And with that, she was off, pulling ahead of him on the pretty little bike he had bought her for her birthday only a few months before.  He was in love with her.  He had always been in love with her.  He had dreamed of her all his life.  And he had known her for two years.

It had been a lonely time at Harvard before that, and well into his second year of graduate school he was resigned to more of the same.  He didn't want what the others wanted.  He didn't want Radcliffe or Vassar or Wellesley in bed with him.  He had known too many of those girls during his undergraduate days, and for Michael there was always something missing.  He wanted something more. Texture, substance, soul.  He had solved the problem for himself very nicely the summer before, with an affair with one of his mother's friends.  Not that his mother had known.  But it had been fun.  She was a damned attractive woman in her late thirties, years younger than his mother, of course, and she was an editor at Vogue.  But that had been merely sport.  For both of them. Nancy was different.

He had known from the first moment he had seen her in the Boston gallery that showed her paintings.  There was a haunting loneliness about her countrysides, a solitary tenderness about her people that filled him with compassion and made him want to reach out to them and to the artist who painted them.  She had been sitting there that day in a red beret and an old raccoon coat, her delicate skin still glowing from her walk to the Charles Street gallery, her eyes shining, her face alive.  He had never wanted any woman as he wanted her.  He had bought two of her paintings, and taken her to dinner at Lockober's.  But the rest had taken longer.  Nancy McAllister wasn't quick to give her body or her heart.  She had been too lonely for too long to give herself easily.  At nineteen she was already wise and well versed in pain.  The pain of being alone.  The pain of being left.  It had plagued her since she had been put in the orphanage as a child.  She could no longer remember the day her mother had left her there shortly before she died.  But she remembered the chill of the halls.  The smells of the strange people.  The sounds in the morning as she lay in her bed fighting back tears.  She would remember those things for the rest of her life.  For a long time she had thought nothing could fill the emptiness inside her.  But now she had Michael.

Theirs wasn't always an easy relationship, but it was a strong one, built on love and respect; they had meshed her world and his, and come up with something beautiful and rare.  And Michael was no fool either.  He knew the dangers of falling in love with someone "different," as his mother put it when she got the chance.  But there was nothing "different" about Nancy.  The only thing different was that she was an artist, not just a student.  She wasn't still searching, she already was what she wanted to be.  And unlike the other women he knew, she wasn't auditioning candidates, she had chosen the man she loved. In two years he had never let her down.  She was certain he never would: they knew each other too well.  What could there possibly be that she hadn't already learned? She knew it all.  The funny stuff, the silly secrets, the childhood dreams, the desperate fears.  And through him she had come to respect his family.  Even his mother.

Michael had been born into a tradition, groomed since childhood to inherit a throne.  It wasn't something he took lightly, or even joked about.  Sometimes it actually frightened him.  Would he live up to the legend? But Nancy knew he would.  His grandfather, Richard Cotter, had been an architect, and his father as well.  It was Michael's grandfather who had founded an empire.  But it was the merging of the Cotter business with the Hillyard fortune, through the marriage of Michael's parents, that had created the Cotter-Hillyard of today. Richard Cotter had known how to make money, but it was the Hillyard money—old money—that had brought with it the rites and traditions of power.  It was, at times, a heavy mantle to wear, but not one Michael disliked.  And Nancy respected it too.  She knew that one day Michael would be at the helm of Cotter-Hillyard.  In the beginning they had talked about it incessantly, and then again later, when they realized how serious their affair really was.  But Michael knew that he had found a woman who could handle it, the family responsibilities as well as the business duties.  The orphanage had done nothing to prepare Nancy for the role Michael knew she would fill, but the groundwork seemed to be laid in her very soul.

He watched her now with almost unbearable pride as she sped ahead of him, so sure of herself, so strong, the lithe legs pedaling deftly, her chin tucked over her shoulder now and then to look at him and laugh.  He wanted to speed ahead and take her off the bike...there...on the grass...the way they had the night before...the way...He swept the thought from his mind and raced after her.

"Hey, wait for me, you little twerp!" He was abreast of her in a few moments, and as they rode along, more quietly now, he held out a hand across the narrow gap between them.  "You look beautiful today, Nancy." His voice was a caress in the spring air, and around them the world was fresh and green.  "Do you know how much I love you?"

"Oh, maybe half as much as I love you, Mr.  Hillyard?"

"That shows what you know, Miss Nancy Fancypants."  She laughed, as always, at the nickname.  Michael always made her happy.  He did wonderful things.  She had thought so from the first moment he walked into the gallery and threatened to take off all his clothes if she didn't sell him all her paintings.  "I happen to love you at least seven times as much as you love me."

"Nope."  She grinned at him again, put her nose in the air, and sped ahead again.  "I love you more, Michael."

"How do you know?" He was pressing to catch up.

"Santa Claus told me." And with that she sped ahead again, and this time he let her move out on the narrow path.  They were in a festive mood and he liked watching her.  The slim shape of her hips in jeans, the narrow waist, the trim shoulders with the red sweater loosely tied about them, and that wonderful swing of dark hair.  He could watch her for years.  In fact, he was planning to do just that.  Which reminded him...he had been meaning to talk to her about that all morning.  He narrowed the gap between them again, and tapped her gently on the shoulder.

"Excuse me, Mrs.  Hillyard."  She jumped a little at the words, and then smiled shyly at him as the sun shone across her face.  He could see tiny freckles there, almost like gold dust left by elves on the creamy surface of her skin. "I said...Mrs.  Hillyard..." He mouthed the words with infinite pleasure.  He had waited for two years.

"Aren't you rushing things a little, Michael?"  She sounded hesitant, almost afraid.  He hadn't spoken to Marion yet.  No matter what he and Nancy had agreed to between themselves.

"I don't think I'm rushing anything.  And I was thinking about doing it two weeks from now.  Right after graduation."  They had long since agreed on a small intimate wedding.  Nancy had no family, and Michael wanted to share the moment with Nancy, not a cast of thousands or an army of society photographers. "In fact, I was planning to go down to New York to talk to Marion about it tonight."

"Tonight?" There was an echo of fear in the word, and she let the bicycle come to a slow stop.  He nodded in answer, and she grew pensive as she looked out at the lush hills around them.  "What do you think she'll say?"  She was afraid to look at him.  Afraid to hear.

"Yes, of course.  Are you really worried about it?" But it was a stupid question and they both knew it.  They had plenty to worry about.  Marion was no flower girl.  She was Michael's mother, and she had all the tenderness of the Titanic.  She was a woman of power, of determination, of concrete and steel.  She had carried on the family business after her father died and again with renewed determination after her husband's death.  Nothing stopped Marion Hillyard.  Nothing.  Certainly not a chit of a girl or her only son.  If she didn't want them to get married, nothing would make her grant that "yes" Michael pretended to be so sure of.  And Nancy knew exactly what Marion Hillyard thought of her.

Marion had never made any secret of her feelings, or at least, not from the moment she decided that Michael's "fling" with "that artist might be for real. She had called Michael down to New York and cooed, soothed, and charmed, after which she had stormed, threatened, and baited.  And then she had resigned herself or seemed to.  Michael had taken it as an encouraging sign, but Nancy wasn't so sure.  She had a feeling that Marion knew what she was doing; for the present she had clearly decided to ignore "the situation."  Invitations were not extended, accusations were not made, apologies for things said to Michael in the past were never forthcoming, but no fresh problems had sprung up either. For her, Nancy simply did not exist.  And oddly, Nancy was always surprised to find just how much that hurt.  Having no family of her own, she had always had odd dreams about Marion.  That they might be friends, that Marion would like her, that she and Marion would go shopping for Michael...that Marion would be...the mother she had never had or known.  But Marion was not easily cast in that role.  In two years, Nancy had had ample opportunity to understand that. Only Michael obstinately held to the position that his mother would come around, that once she had accepted the inevitable, they would be great friends. But Nancy was never that sure.  She had even forced Michael to discuss the possibility of Marion's never accepting her, never agreeing to the marriage. Then what?..."Then we hop in the car and head for the nearest justice of the peace.  We're both of age now, you know."  Nancy had smiled at the simplicity of his solution.  She knew it would never be as easy as that.  But what did it matter? After two years together, they felt married anyway."

They stood in silence for a long moment, looking at the view, and then Michael took Nancy's hand.  "I love you, babe."

"I love you too."  She looked at him worriedly and he silenced her eyes with a kiss.  But nothing could still the questions that either of them had.  Nothing except the interview with Marion.  Nancy let her bike fall and with a sigh, slipped slowly into Michael's arms.  "I wish it were easier, Michael."

"It will be.  You'll see.  Now come on.  Are we going to ride, or just stand here all day?" He swatted her behind again and she smiled as he picked up her bike for her.  And in a moment they were off again, laughing and playing and singing, pretending that Marion didn't exist.  But she did.  She always would. Marion was more an institution than a woman.  Marion was forever.  In Michael's life anyway.  And now in Nancy's.

The sun rose higher in the sky as they pedaled through the countryside, alternately riding ahead of each other or side by side, at one moment raucously teasing, at the next growing silent and thoughtful.  It was almost noon when they reached Revere Beach and saw the familiar face riding toward them.  It was Ben Avery, with a new girl at his side.  Another leggy blonde.  They all looked like homecoming queens, and most of them were.

"Hi, you two.  Going to the fair?" Ben grinned at them, and then with a vague wave of his hand introduced Jeannette.  They all exchanged a round of hellos, and Nancy shielded her eyes to glance ahead at the fair.  It was still several blocks away.

"Is it worth stopping for?"

"Hell, yes.  We won a pink dog— he pointed at the ugly little creature in Jeannette's basket—"a green turtle, which somehow got lost, and two cans of beer.  Besides, they have corn on the cob and it's terrific."

"You just sold me."  Michael looked over at Nancy and smiled.  "Shall we?"

"Sure.  You guys going back already?" But she could see that they were.  Ben had a recognizable gleam in his eyes, and Jeannette seemed to be in agreement. Nancy smiled to herself as she watched them.

"Yeah, we've been out since about six this morning.  I'm beat.  What are you two doing for dinner tonight, by the way? Want to stop in for a pizza?" Ben's room was only a few doors down from Mike's.

"What are we doing for dinner, seÒor?"  Nancy looked at Michael with a broad smile, but he was shaking his head.

"I have some business to attend to tonight.  Maybe another time."  It was a rapid reminder of the meeting with Marion.

"Okay.  See ya."  Ben and Jeannette waved and were off, as Nancy stared at Michael."

"You're really going down to see her tonight?"

"Yes.  And stop worrying about it.  Everything is going to be just fine.  By the way, Mother says he's got the job."

"Ben?"  Nancy looked up questioningly as they started pedaling toward the fair.

"Yes.  We start at the same time.  Different areas, but we start the same day." Mike looked pleased.  He had known Ben since prep school, and they were like brothers.

"Does Ben know yet?"

Michael shook his head with a secretive smile.  "I thought I'd let him get the thrill of hearing the news officially.  I didn't want to spoil it for him."

Nancy smiled back at him.  "You're a nice guy and I love you, Hillyard."

"Thank you, Mrs. H."

"Stop that, Michael"  She wanted the name too much to hear it bandied about, even by Michael.

"I won't stop it.  And you'd better get used to it."  He suddenly looked serious.

"I will.  When the time is right.  But until then, Miss McAllister will do just fine."

"For about two more weeks, to be exact.  Come on, I'll race ya."

They sped ahead, side by side, panting and laughing, and Michael reached the entrance to the fair a full thirty seconds before she did.  But they both looked tanned and healthy and carefree.

"Well, sir, what's first?"  But she had already guessed, and she was right.

"Corn, of course.  Need you ask?"

"Not really." They parked their bikes next to a tree, knowing that in that sleepy countryside no one would steal them, and they walked off arm in arm. Ten minutes later they stood happily dripping butter as they ate their corn, and then they gobbled hot dogs and sipped ice-cold

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 85 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 85 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    You will want to fulfill Their Promise

    Danielle Steel shows us how love can overcome anything in The Promise. Nancy and Michael, a young couple, promise to love each other forever and promise to never let anything come between them. They soon find themselves in a horrible car accident, with major injuries. While Michael's were not fatal, Nancy's was close to it. Persuaded by Michael's mother, who never approved of their relationship, Nancy finds herself all the way across the country where she will undergo her recovery, paid for by Michael's mother. In exchange, she has to sever all ties with Michael. Nancy agrees, keeping their recent promise in her mind and in her heart. But Michael does not come back for her, never searching for her. As they both desperately try to move on, they find themselves unable to forget each other. Both end up miserable, led by lies, deceit and a longing for each other. Their love is never lost, since they stubbornly hold on to the only part of it left, their unfulfilled promise.
    Both try to move on, living a dull life with no excitement or true emotions. They submerge themselves into their jobs and ideas, forgetting about the world just outside of their broken hearts. That fateful night haunts them both, reminding Michael of his lost love and Nancy of her previous self and hurt love. With new friendships and passions, their love is put to the test. It is up to them to determine if it can survive anything, but what if they have no idea a test is taking place?
    Never letting go of the past and resisting living the present, these young lovers are destined for a miserable life. Both Nancy and Michael change and as a most unlikely circumstance arises, someone hands them a second change to find their love. With a different way of looking at the world, different talents, voices and names, the young couple finds themselves staring at strangers. There are twists and turns, and when it seems that Nancy and Michael will finally see each other again, fate makes sure they do not recognize each other. Their ignorance of the true events that transpired during that fateful night is caused by their naive love for each other and the people around them.
    This is a book that keeps you turning page by page, eager to learn the end of Nancy and Michael's tragic love story, yet sad to see the ending come by so quickly. I began and finished this book in one day, managing to go to school, do my homework and tutor my friends. This is a book you will not be able to stop reading, captivated by a so tragic, yet romantic love story. You will be caught between two different worlds where you are the only one that knows the truth. You will read about Michael and Nancy's love that jumps out of the page and into your heart, while you long to break multiple promises in order to reach that final desired ending, in order to fulfill The Promise.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2008

    For true lovers

    When i first started reading promise, i thought it to be like any other romantic piece. I simply loved it. My beleif in the purity of love has become stronger. True love never dies.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2014

    One of My Favorites

    I first read The Promise when I was a sophmore back in 1978. It has remained my favorite book by Danielle Steel. It made me believe in true love at a stage in my life when I was still innocent. I recently purchased the movie on Amazon and am waiting for a cold and rainy day to curl up and watch in my new retirement home.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2013


    Good. Book , the ending was too fast

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2013

    Holly's Promise. PROLOGUE

    Storm was laying in his temporary den when something struck him. A fire was in the entrance to the den with images and a voice that boomed out:" The First Will Rise, Others Will Follow, But The True Savior Will Be The Cat Of Night." Storms eyes glazed with fear. "But Nightfall is the most feared by all cats." He whispered. The fire died down and it showed Storms fate. He cried out in fear.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2013

    This is the first book I ever read for fun about 10 years ago. I

    This is the first book I ever read for fun about 10 years ago. I fell in love with it an read nothing but romance novels now. This book made me love to read!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2013


    I love this book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2012

    Love love Danielle Steel


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  • Posted July 31, 2012

    Best writer EVER!!!

    I LOVE Danielle Steel. She's so romantic and so am I. That's why I just love ALL of her novels. I have seen all of her novels in TV. I imagine myself in that world that she writes. I just love romanticism. I've been reading and seeing her novels a long time ago.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2012

    All time best DS book!

    I read this book for the first time in the 80's and loved it and again recently. It is one of the most heart wrenching love stories. The characters are lovable and the story so pure. A great read.

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  • Posted June 5, 2011

    This is my all time favorite story

    I first read this book in the early 80's. I've read it at least 20 times since. The promise to never say goodbye - gets me everytime.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    All around amazing!!!

    This book had me angry, happy, sad, laughing, and in a loving mood. I used to never, ever read romance stories because I thought they were all the same. As soon as I picked this book up, I couldn't put it down! The way Danielle Steel writes is just phenomenal. I read her books almost 24/7 and would read them in my sleep if I could. Definetly, 100%, truely, worth checking out!!

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  • Posted April 17, 2011

    Great read

    I really enjoyed this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2006


    This really was an excellent book. I love Danielle Steel and it makes me feel so much better when I read a book written by her that has a happy ending. This is definitely worth reading. I loved it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2005

    The Best Ever

    The best ever in romance novels.. I loved this book when it came out and then I fell in love with the movie..I have read this book so much I had to get a new copy of it. I have been searching sites all over the web to get a copy of the movie but have had no success at it as of yet..I recommend this book highly to anyone who wants to read a great love story...Sorry Love Story but this book even beats you out of the running...Absolutely endearing and loving, Danielle Steel knows how to keep her audience engrossed and entertained.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2004


    I could not put this book down. It teaches you that if two people are meant to be, there is nothing that can keep that from happening. Love never dies, It may fade a little, but if love is real, nothing will destroy it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2004

    Couldn't Put It Down

    This book, in my opinion was amazing! It kept me on my toes the whole time. Although kind of predictable, there are some twists that you never see coming. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading Steel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2003

    The BEST BOOK I have ever read!!!

    This is the best book i have ever read by Danielle Steel. It is a sad but a happy story. In the beginning it is sad but it all turns out for the best.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2003

    simply loving and keeps your heart melted.

    I enjoyed reading the novel and I read it almost 8 yrs before.I happen to read it once again and I was engrossed into it. Must read for all....I'm an ardent fan of hers and love reading her book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2003

    a love story to pass on

    I read this book when it came out in 1978 when I was in high school and loved it. I bought it today for my 8th grade daughter-a classic love story she will remember years from now

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