Promise Me This

Promise Me This

by Cathy Gohlke


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781414353074
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date: 01/20/2012
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 431,735
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

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Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Cathy Gohlke
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4143-5307-4

Chapter One

The great ship returned late from her sea trials beyond the shores of Carrickfergus, needing only her sea papers, a last-minute load of supplies, and the Belfast mail before racing to Southampton.

But in that rush to ferry supplies, a dockworker's hand was crushed beneath two heavy crates carelessly dropped. The fury and swearing that followed reddened the neck of the toughest man aboard the sturdy supply boat.

Michael Dunnagan's eyes and ears spread wide with all the fascination of his fifteen years.

"You there! Lad! Do you want to make a shilling?"

Michael, who'd stolen the last two hours of the day from his sweep's work to run home and scrub before seeing Titanic off, turned at the gruff offer, certain he'd not heard with both ears.

"Are you deaf, lad? Do you want to make a shilling, I say!" the mate aboard the supply craft called again.

"I do, sir! I do!" Michael vowed, propelled by wonder and a fear the man might change his mind.

"Give us a hand, then. My man's smashed his paw, and we've got to get these supplies aboard Titanic. She's late from her trials and wants to be under way!"

Michael could not move his feet from the splintered dock. For months he'd slipped from work to steal glimpses of the lady's growing. He'd spied three years ago as her magnificent keel was laid and had checked week by week as ribs grew into skeleton, as metal plates formed sinew and muscle to strengthen her frame, as decks and funnels fleshed her out. He'd speculated on her finishing, the sure beauty and mystery of her insides. He had cheered, with most of Belfast, as she'd been gently pulled from her berth that morning by tugboats so small with names so mighty that the contrast was laughable.

To stand on the dock and see her sitting low in the water, her sleek lines lit by electric lights against the cold spring twilight, was a wonder of its own. The idea of stepping onto her polished deck—and being paid to do it—was joyous beyond anything in Michael's ken.

But his uncle Tom was aboard Titanic in the stoker hole, shoveling coal for her mighty engines. Michael had snuck to the docks to celebrate the parting from his uncle's angry fists and lashing belt as much as he'd come to see Titanic herself. He'd never dared to defend himself against the hateful man twice his size, but Michael surely meant to spit a final good-bye.

"Are you coming or not?" the dockhand barked.

"Aye!" Michael dared the risk and jumped aboard the supply boat, trying for the nimble footing of a sailor rather than the clunky feet of a sweep. Orders were shouted from every direction. Fancy chairs, crates of food, and kitchen supplies were stowed in every conceivable space. Mailbags flew from hands on dock to hands on deck. As soon as the lines were tossed aboard, the supply craft fairly flew through the harbor.

Staff of Harland and Wolff—the ship's designers and builders—firemen, and yard workers not sailing to Southampton stood on Titanic's deck, ready to be lightered ashore. The supply boat pulled alongside her.

Michael bent his head, just in case Uncle Tom was among those sent ashore, though he figured it unlikely. He hefted the low end of a kitchen crate and followed it aboard Titanic, repeating in his mind the two words of the only prayer he remembered: Sweet Jesus. Sweet Jesus. Sweet Jesus. "Don't be leaving them there!" An authoritarian sort in blue uniform bellowed at the load of chairs set squarely on the deck. "Bring those along to the first-class reception room!"

Michael dropped the kitchen crate where he stood. Sweeping a wicker chair clumsily beneath each arm, he followed the corridor-winding trail blazed by the man ahead of him.

He clamped his mouth to keep it from trailing his toes. Golden oak, carved and scrolled, waxed to a high sheen, swept past him. Fancy patterned carpeting in colors he would have wagered grew only in flowers along the River Shannon made him whistle low. Mahogany steps, grand beyond words, swept up, up to he didn't know where.

He caught his breath at the domed skylight above it all.

Lights, so high he had to crane his neck to see, and spread wider than a man could stretch, looked for all the world to Michael like layers of icicles and stars, twinkling, dangling one set upon the other.

But Michael gasped as his eyes traveled downward again. He turned away from the center railing, feeling heat creep up his neck. Why the masters of Titanic wanted a statue of a winged and naked child to hold a lamp was more than he could imagine.

"Oy! Mind what you're about, lad!" A deckhand wheeled a skid of crates, barely missing Michael's back. "If we scrape these bulkheads, we're done for. I'll not be wanting my pay docked because a gutter rat can't keep his head."

"I'll mind, sir. I will, sir." Michael took no offense. He considered himself a class of vermin somewhat lower than a gutter rat. He swallowed and thought, But the luckiest vermin that ever lived!

"Set them round here," the fussy man ordered. Immediately the first-class reception room was filled with men and chairs and confounding directions. A disagreement over the placement of chairs broke out between two argumentative types in crisp uniforms.

The man who'd followed close on Michael's heels stepped back, muttering beneath his breath, "Young bucks busting their britches." A minute passed before he shook his head and spoke from the side of his mouth. "Come, me boyo. We'll fetch another load. Blathering still, they'll be."

But as they turned, the men in uniform forged an agreement and called for Michael to rearrange the chairs. Michael stepped lively, moved each one willingly, deliberately, and moved a couple again, only to stay longer in the wondrous room.

But as quickly as the cavernous room had filled, it emptied. The last of the uniformed men was summoned to the dining room next door, and Michael stood alone in the vast hall.

He started for the passageway, then stopped. He knew he should return to the deck with the other hands and finish loading supplies. But what if he didn't? What if he just sat down and took his ease? What if he dared stay in the fine room until Titanic reached Southampton? What if he then walked off the ship—simply walked into England?

Michael's brow creased in consternation. He sucked in his breath, nearly giddy at the notion: to leave Belfast and Ireland for good and all, never again to feel Uncle Tom's belt or buckle lashed across his face or shoulders.

And there was Jack Deegan to consider. When Deegan had injured his back aboard his last ship, he'd struck a bargain with Uncle Tom. Deegan had eagerly traded his discharge book—a stoker's ticket aboard one of the big liners—for Uncle Tom's flat and Michael's sweep wages for twelve months. As cruel as his uncle had always been, experience made Michael fear being left alone with Jack Deegan even more.

To walk away from Uncle Tom, from Jack Deegan, from the memory of these miserable six years past, and even from the guilt and shame of failing Megan Marie—it was a dream, complex and startling. And it flashed through Michael's mind in a moment.

He swallowed. Uncle Tom would be in the stoker hole or firemen's quarters while aboard ship. Once in Southampton he would surely spend his shore leave at the pubs. Michael could avoid him for this short voyage.

"Sweet Jesus," Michael whispered again, his heart drumming a beat until it pounded the walls of his chest. He had begged for years, never believing his prayers had been heard or would be answered.

Michael waited half a minute. When no one came, he crept cautiously across the room, far from the main entry, and slid, the back side of a whisper, beneath the table nearest the wall.

What's the worst they could do to me? he wondered. Send me back? Throw me to the sharks? He winced. It was a fair trade.

Minutes passed and still no one came. Shrill whistle blasts signaled Titanic's departure from the harbor. Michael wondered if the mate who'd hired him had missed him, or if he'd counted himself lucky to be saved the bargained shilling. He wondered if Uncle Tom or Jack Deegan would figure out what he'd done, hunt him down, and drag him back. He wondered if it was possible the Sweet Jesus listened to the prayers of creatures lower than gutter rats after all.


Excerpted from PROMISE ME THIS by CATHY GOHLKE Copyright © 2012 by Cathy Gohlke. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Julie Lessman

Stunning. Simply one of the best— if not most powerful—books I have ever read.

Siri Mitchell

A story of hopes lost and found, of dreams surrendered and reborn, that blossoms with warmth and quiet power in a priceless portrayal of undeserved grace.
Siri Mitchell, author of A Heart Most Worthy

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Promise Me This 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 131 reviews.
Cassie_D96 More than 1 year ago
For most of her life Annie Allan has been under the thumb of her bitter, cruel, and spiteful Aunt Eleanor. But now her brother, Owen, has finally found a way out, but it means he has to travel on to America without her, until he can build a new life there with their father's family. But then everything goes wrong, the Titanic sinks, taking her brother, her family, her life, and her future, with it. Then she learns that Michael Dunnegan, the young man Owen took under his wing, survived because of her brother. Now he has taken all of Owen's responsibilities on himself; including bringing Annie to America and saving their aunt and uncle's business. Yet all Annie can think of is that it seems that Michael is living the life Owen should have, will she end up like her aunt? Bitter and unforgiving, or can she accept the young man her brother had loved as his own family. Michael Dunnegan hardly remembers what its like to have a real family, for so long he has been abused by his cruel uncle, but a chance encounter with the Titanic gives him a chance to escape that, and meeting Owen Allen gives him the opportunity for a whole new life. When Owen saves him from death on the sinking ship he makes him promise to do what he no longer can, take care of his family. Before long he has fulfilled his duty to Owen's relatives in America, but he still can't bring Annie to join them. When war breaks out he realizes he'll do anything to rescue the woman he has grown to love. After the last book I received from Tyndale I have to say that I was a little skeptical of this one. However, I can honestly say that all of my fears were quickly relieved. This book was a combination of everything I love. There was romance, adventure, and two of the greatest (and most tragic) events in recent history; the sinking of the Titanic and WWI. The characters were primarily believable, although I had trouble believing anyone could be as cruel as Aunt Eleanor. At first I didn't like Annie very much, she was spoiled and self-centered which, I hate to say, kind of made me feel a little less sorry for her. But I loved watching her evolve into a mature and beautiful woman. The same went for Michael, he went from a street rat to an honorable young man. Still, like all books, this one wasn't perfect. Michael and Annie's relationship seemed to evolve from hate to love a little too fast, I just didn't really feel it. However, I would say this is a fresh look on two great tragedies, and hope in the midst of them. If you love history and romance like I do then I'd say this is a pretty good choice. Content Advisory: Language: Minor slang, nothing inappropriate. Violence/Gore: Part of this book takes place during WWI and you do hear about some of the details of the battle, along with injury descriptions. Sexual Content: A man casually mentions looking forward to his wedding night, but not in any detail. I received this book from Tyndale in exchange for my review.
MaureenST More than 1 year ago
I started reading this book thinking it was about the is so very much more! We all know the out come of the ships fate, and when you get engrossed in this story, you hope beyond hope that the all the character's we have now met on the ship will survive. Of course, this is a fictional story based on fact. Owen Allen is such a great God loving Character, with such a big heart. His sister Annie has not had an easy life, her parents are deceased, and she has been living with her Aunt Eleanor, the Devil Incarnate! Owen wants to send for her as soon as he has enough money, and have her come to America. Michael Dunnagan, has also had a very rough life, and becomes a stowaway on the Titanic, and is helped and loved by Owen. Owen embraces him and has him sew his plants and seeds into his coat, to plant his Allen's Run Garden in New America! Once we get to New Jersey we meet Owen's Aunt and Uncle that take Michael under their wings and give him the first home he can ever remember. There is so much emotion packed into this book, there are heart wrenching times, and so much love...and throughout it all I see God's hand! This book then takes us on a journey of World War I, and the flu epidemic. So very much is packed into this unforgettable book...I LOVED it!! I received this book from the Publisher Tyndale, and was not required to give a positive review!
CarrieTuransky More than 1 year ago
Cathy Gholke takes us on an amazing journey as we set sail with young Michael Dunnagan who stows away on the ill-fated Titanic. His friendship with Owen Allen set up the story that takes Michael from England to America, and then back to Europe as he seeks to keep his promise to Owen to care for Owen's sister, Annie. Cathy Gholke captures the rich history of that time with beautiful writing that will stir your heart and keep you up late, turning pages, to see what will happen to Michael and Annie. I highly recommend this book to everyone who enjoys well-written historical novels. You won't be disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was initially drawn in when i was looking for something titanic related for the 100th anniversary and i found myself falling in love with the characters in the novel. From the tragedy of titanic to the first world war, i was kept on my toes the whole book. I also found a strong Christian message tied into this historical love story. Strongly recommend Promise Me this!
LAWonder More than 1 year ago
I won this and am very grateful to Cathy for offering it for a giveaway. I may have bought this or read it anyway but I am very pleased to add this to my library collection to further enjoy and to share with other family and friends. This is very well-written and 'clean'! Anyone at any age can comfortably read it. I is great for Book Clubs with many good discussion points. This is a great story of not only historical romance but of love for fellowmen, true Christianity, the good and cruel people and events in life. It is a story of good and bad choices, joy and sorrow. There is suspense, adventure, drama, intrigue, and historical events found within this great novel.
MarB1 More than 1 year ago
This was my first book by Cathy Gohlke. I really looked forward to reading this story. Although it was different than what I had expected, it was a good read and beautifully written. Owen and Allie Allen are brother and sister. Their parents died and young Allie went to live with their mean aunt Eleanor in England. Owen saved money to sail to America to help an Aunt and Uncle with their garden business. Owen sails to America first with the promise to get Allie as soon as he has earned enough money. Owen has a golden heart and takes pity on a stowaway on board Titanic. Michael has ran away from the horrible life he lived with his abusive uncle. He is surprised by the love that Owen shows for him when he finds him on board Titanic. Owen is planning a new life for Michael in America and is teaching him all about plants and seeds. When the disaster happens with Titanic Owen gives Michael a chance for a future. When Michael comes to America he is lovingly adopted by Aunt Maggie and Daniel. He's a hard worker and helps to make the gardens profitable. He's working hard to earn enough money to get Annie to America, meanwhile the two start writing letters. Annie has a lot to adapt to after Owen left. She starts to love Michaels letters, but when WWI breaks out something happens and no one hears anything from Annie anymore. What happened? Is she safe? There surely happens a lot in this story, many years pass. And sometimes I wondered if some parts could have left out. Therefor I give 4 stars instead of 5. The writing is pleasant, the research well done, the characters are very real. Altogether this makes a good story!
NiqueDH More than 1 year ago
An absolutely amazing book! It got me hooked on historical fiction and romance. Highly recommend.
KarenLange More than 1 year ago
Annie Allen is devastated upon learning that her older brother Owen perished when the Titanic went down. Her only remaining relative in England is Aunt Eleanor, and Annie has never been close to the bitter spinster. As details unfold, Annie learns that Owen requested a favor of a young street urchin and Titanic stowaway, Michael Dunnagan. Owen asked Michael to fulfill his American dream by going to Swainton, NJ, where Owen’s aunt and uncle own and operate Allen’s Run Gardens. He also requested that Michael bring Annie to America so she could start a new life, far from Eleanor’s disapproving eyes. As Michael struggles to begin a new life stateside, he struggles under a heavy weight of guilt that he survived and Owen did not. He reaches out to Annie via letter, but she rebuffs his correspondence at first. Eventually though, she warms to Michael’s efforts to build a friendship and letters fly back and forth across the pond. Michael works overtime to save enough money to bring Annie to NJ, only to see World War 1 erupt, making travel to and from England dangerous. In the meantime, Annie busies herself by training with the Red Cross, and she and a friend sign up to work with the Voluntary Aid Detachment in regional hospitals. As the war drags on, Michael is restless and more concerned for Annie’s safety, and embarks on a perilous journey across the Atlantic to see her. His arrival coincides with Aunt Eleanor’s mysterious dying wish that throws a cruel wrench into Annie’s plans to go to America. Cathy Gohlke’s stories are not your average run of the mill predictable fare. This Christy Award winning author has several books under her belt, with tales that envelop the reader with rich descriptions and intriguing plots. Promise Me This is no exception. Just about the time I thought it safe to turn a page and take a breath, Cathy ramped up the action with exciting twists and turns. As a fan of happy endings, I was relieved to see that these seemingly impossible knots were all happily untangled. One of my favorite aspects of this book was that it was partially set in southern NJ, just minutes from where I grew up. Allen’s Run Gardens was fashioned after a real botanical garden in Swainton that we visited on numerous occasions. Cathy captures the essence of the area and era to lend authenticity to Annie and Michael’s emotional journey through tragedy and beyond. I seldom give a five star rating to a book, but this one earned it and then some. In my opinion, Cathy Gohlke possesses the gift of bringing stories to life in an amazing way. If you haven’t already guessed, I highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my favorit books. If you like romance you will enjoy this one from start to finish. No foul words and no filth .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read. Historical romance at its best. I hate it when people write a synopsis of the book in the review section, its very rude. This is for reviews, not euining the plot for other people who wish to read it unstead of hearing it from someones notes. Please people, stop doing it!!!
KVictoriaChase More than 1 year ago
Promise Me This, set during pre-World War I era, is a beautiful love story between a street rat, Michael Dunnagan, and a young woman born to privilege, Annie Allen. They catch a glimpse of each other when they are still children. Annie's older brother, Owen, shows the young Irish lad charity and gives him a job. Promising his sister a new life in America, Owen buys passage on the ill-fated Titanic and tells Annie that he will send for her soon. Also seeking a fresh start, Michael stows away on the Titanic. Only Michael survives, but the brotherly bond between Owen and Michael is so great, Michael promises to one day bring Annie to America. This is the first book by Cathy that I have read and I must say, I enjoyed it. Her voice is hauntingly romantic, and I felt as if I were watching, instead of reading, a BBC movie based on a novel from ages past. In fact, if it hasn't been optioned for film, it should be; just saying. Annie and Michael come from very different backgrounds and each of them face painful struggles attached to their circumstances. Through their present situation of being separated and the pain of losing a loved one, I was very engaged and eager to see how these two young individuals would fight through their grief and connect with each other. Cathy has written obstacle after obstacle into her characters' lives and watching them grow and mature was a pleasant experience. Grief, anger, bitterness, revenge...all our explored in this wonderful story about compassion and forgiveness. One of my favorite scenes was the sinking of the Titanic. Spread over several chapters, Cathy takes you on a visual tour moving you across the ship from trapped lower level passengers, to upper-class ticket holders being safely loaded into boats, to an elderly couple content to leave the world together, and finally to that famous band that went down playing their instruments. The way she wrote that historical event was fascinating. I believed she captured the range of emotions that must have occurred on that sad night, and I had a vivid image of being safely beside Michael on a lifeboat watching the "unsinkable" ship slip beneath the icy surface and into a watery grave. Even her images of battles occurring during WWI were brilliant, exciting and graphic. If you haven't read anything by Cathy Gohlke, then I recommend you pick up her latest novel, Promise Me This. You may visit her website and Tyndale House for more on this author and her newest release.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was my first book by Cathy Gohlke. This is exactly what I was looking for. It grabbed me by the second page and I hated putting it down to go to work even thought about calling in sick! This book proves my point when I say you don't need all the sex, filth and smut to write an outstanding story. I've thrown many unfinished books in the garbage where they belong. This book keeps you turning the pages and at times made me so frustrated that I wanted to throw the book across the room, (decided that wouldn't be a good idea since I have a nook) I've even yelled at the author while reading this book threatening that "this book had better end the way I want it to!" Very good book…kudos to the author. I've purchased two more of her books; I will read every book she writes as long as she writes like this.
cinchase More than 1 year ago
I picked this book to read for the Titanic disaster anniversary and was not disappointed. This book was a joy to read. I completely became engrossed in the lives of Michael and Annie and needed to find out what was going to happen next. They endured so much in their lives. Would they ever find true happiness? Were they going to end up together? Would the wicked Aunt ruin everyones lives? Wonderful story mixed in with a little history.
Cindi_A More than 1 year ago
Outstanding!! When I learned that this book was about the Titanic, for some odd reason I expected it to be similar to the popular movie. Boy, was I wrong. Wrong in a great way, though. The Titanic is just the beginning of this well composed story. There is so much at stake for Owen and his sister, Annie, when Owen decides to go in search of a better life in America. When Annie learns about the sinking of the ship and how Michael survived due to the love and sacrifice of Owen, she is torn. She doesn't know how to feel. Annie feels anger, hurt, sadness and so many other emotions. Can she get past the turmoil? Can she ever feel peace? This author has an incredible writing ability. She brings her characters to life. One cannot help but feel deep emotion when reading the pages. I highly recommend Promise Me This for anyone who enjoys a well told and amazingly written historical fiction. Cathy Gohlke is an author that not only inspires but takes her readers into the story. This book is going on my "keeper" shelf along with the others of hers that I've read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it
Docent1 More than 1 year ago
I can't describe how much I love this book! The tragedy of the Titanic, the loyalty of Micheal in his search for Annie, everything just took my breath away! When the book was in it's last chapters I literally could not put it down! I stayed up much later than I would have preferred reading it. If you're anything like me you might want a tissue box close by as you finish. I highly recommend it!
ghostworld More than 1 year ago
Loved this book, but hated the ending and a little to much preaching...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't often take the time to write reviews, even for books that I absolutely love! But, I just have to stop and say how I feel about this book. This is truly one of the most stunning stories I have ever read. The author unfolded the depth and growth of the characters one beautiful petal at a time. In the end, this story is about love, selfless sacrifice, family, forgiveness and the true and awesome gift of salvation! I hope you all love it as much as I do!
JulesWrite527 More than 1 year ago
I was lucky to snag Promise Me This as a freebie. I wasn't sure how much I would like the book, but the fact that the story included the Titanic piqued my interest. In the first few chapters I was afraid that my concerns about the story would prove true as I found the early chapters to be slow and awkward; the characters did not feel fully fleshed out. But I plodded on determined to give the story a chance. I am SO glad I did not give up. When the story reached the Titanic and its fateful sinking, Ms. Gohlke really started to hit her stride as a storyteller, and I got hooked. From there on, the story reminded me of one my favorite shows -- Downton Abbey. Like Downton Abbey, the story touches on the sinking of the Titanic, the women's rights movement and World War I and has a healthy dose of melodrama thrown in for good measure. I loved it! It was also nice to see the main characters of Michael and Annie develop over the course of the story from teenagers to young adults. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Downton Abbey and/or has an interest in the Titanic and World War I. It was a nice read with a sweet romance, that actually ended up taking a few surprising twists and turns along the way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Captivating love story - from the sinking of Titanic to WW1, this novel will not disappoint.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! The story was excellently written and held my interest from first to last i would love to see a movie made!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Scrupulously researched. Well developed characters. Exceptional
Anonymous More than 1 year ago