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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.

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Promise Me This is such an incredible story! The reader is swept away from the first page. Michael and Annie, the two main characters of the story, begin the book's pages in their early teenage years. Neither of them are much to admire. However, God sees things in people that we don't always see... Let me first say that I rarely find current authors I can truly admire because, well, because most of them don't write much better than I do. "Well then, why don't you write a book?" you ask. Trust me, I'm workin' on it. ; ) The only person I can begin to compare Cahty Gohlke to is Francine Rivers. The way these women write is a cut above most other modern authors. They capture you, you're in another time, you're a starving child with a terrifying uncle, you watch as the Titanic is built and then filled, and suddenly you're a stowaway on board "the ship not even God Himself could sink." And then you're seeing the Titanic go down and feeling the panic of the people around you, you're hearing the last songs the musicians played as the ship sunk, you're feeling the weight of the tragedy as people jump to their deaths because there's no escape, and then you're rescued... a stowaway who didn't deserve the sacrifice one man made for you, not to mention the grace of God. And later, you're in Germany on a grand tour when World War I suddenly breaks out. You're English, stranded in a foreign country where the citizens hate you. You're on a train taken over by Nazi's who force you to leave it and then you're marching on foot to France and then going on to England. This story is gripping! And woven through it all is "Sweet Jesus," the author of our lives who weaves everything perfectly together (even the tragic) to create a masterpiece. Reading Promise Me This feels like reading "Gone With the Wind." Just like that book, this is one that I'll want to read every few years. I recommend it more than any other book I've read in the last two years.

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 Michaela'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.

Promise Me This is a long book (400 pages) following two main characters connected to each other by a mutual beloved third. The author takes you through the Titanic and then World War I. It is an interesting book, even if antagonists drop out of the storyline for large tracts of time. It's labeled as a Christian Fiction, Historical Romance, but it is not overly romantic. The reader is left in the dark in key plot areas, left to wonder why a character is acting in such a way, until several chapters later. Nearly at the end of the book love-triangle-esque drama is added. An interesting read, but not exactly my cup of tea in regards to books.