Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book Review: The Promise

"Now let's make a promise. I promise never to forget what is here, or to forget what they stand for. Now you." She touched his hand, and he smiled down at her again. He had never loved her more. "And I promise... I promise never to say goodbye to you..." And then, for no reason in particular, they laughed. Because it felt good to be young, to be romantic, even to be corny.
-from The Promise by Danielle Steel

So the rumor is that when my mom was a teenager she read this book and it's where she got the idea to name me Danielle. I even have a copy of her original book and I'm pretty sure I read this book when I was a kid (yes, I had advanced taste in books when I was younger!). I found it on OverDrive and decided to give it another read now that I can better understand it. I have very mixed feelings about it. 

The Promise starts off as your typical rich boy/poor girl love story. Mike, weeks away from receiving his doctorate in Architecture, proposes to Nancy, a poor artist orphaned as a child, despite the strong disapproval of his cold, widowed mother who runs their family Architectural firm with an iron fist. Foreshadowing their tragic love story, Mike and Nancy make a promise to never forget about their love for each other. That same night, on their way to their wedding, they are involved in a terrible car accident leaving Mike in a coma and Nancy's face horribly disfigured. In an attempt to get rid of Nancy as amicably as possible, Mike's mother offers her a deal she can't refuse: she will pay for Nancy to relocate to San Francisco where the top facial reconstructive surgeon in the nation will spend years rehabilitating Nancy physically and emotionally. In return, Nancy must never contact Mike again. In hopes that Mike will remember their promise, Nancy takes the offer. 

Where do I even begin on how ridiculous this story is? Even though it's late-70's Danielle Steel (where everything is Architects and upper-class snooty matriarchs), I can't even wrap my head around how over-the-top this book is. First of all, I'm reading this more than 30 years after it was published and I don't think there is facial reconstructive surgery now that could transform Nancy's face into that of a supermodel within 18 months. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think it would be front page news if it were possible and the Real Housewives of Everywhere would look a whole lot more natural. 

Let's say it was totally possible for Nancy to go from zero-to-Angelina with a couple surgeries; I am still annoyed that the girl takes ballet and gets a bangin' body, picks up a camera and is suddenly a pro, and sees a voice coach to change her voice. All of these things are just too easy to help transform her into a completely new person. While I understand that in the world of Danielle Steel voice coaches and art galleries are the norm, this makes the story so unrelatable. In the end I couldn't stand Nancy (or, Marie as she later changes her name!). I know she's been through a traumatic experience and for all intents and purposes she's a brave girl for dealing with it ultimately alone, but everything she does while rehabilitating is perfect and easy. She has no redeeming qualities other than being a sweet, boring artist. 

Mike on the other hand, who is told by his mother that Nancy died in the accident, is much more lovable. He throws himself into his work to avoid feeling, but it's inescapable how much he still loves Nancy and continues to mourn her. This makes Nancy's frustrations that Mike hasn't pursued her sound like a whiny baby, despite them being completely understandable (oh, the dramatic irony!).

The next paragraph contain mild spoilers, but honestly, you've probably already anticipated what I "spoil"!! This is your warning!! 

The most abruptly jarring point of the whole book is when Marion, Mike's cold and calculating mother (think Anjelica Huston in Ever After or heck, Anjelica Huston in Smash!) suddenly has a change of heart and wants to try to make things right. Sure, she doesn't have the guts to do it herself (most understandable part of the whole ordeal), but it's so quick that she changes, there's no slow realization of conscience that I think her personality change deserves. Her change of heart leads to what we all know was going to happen from the beginning: the reunion of Mike and Nancy/Marie, which is the most redeeming point of the whole book and even that falls flat. I must admit, I was giddy while reading this because it's what I had been waiting for throughout the whole book. Unfortunately this reunion only lasts a few pages and then the book suddenly ends without any indication of how things proceeded with Mike and Nancy/Marie. Although if it's anything like the rest of the book, I imagine they lived happily ever after with Mike's Mommy Dearest and had absolutely no psychological repercussions for their traumatic ordeal. 
-------------------- {end spoilers}--------------------

I'm not gonna lie, I didn't think I'd rip the book apart so much before I started this review!! While it has its atrocious short comings, this book is, after all, a love story and it will have any normal girl swooning and gushing in every chapter. I am not above that, I'll admit with some shame. I think I want to read another Danielle Steele book to see if they're all this far-fetched, especially considering I read her books regularly when I was 12! I guess I should be especially happy that my mom didn't name me Nancy or Marie! ;) 

Bottom Line: Read this if you want to laugh about a cheesy romance novel. If you're really interested in it, you can probably read the first 7 and the last 7 chapters to get the best of the story. »» ★ ★½ {out of 5}

 All book reviews are 100% my opinion. All books & characters belong to their respective authors. Book Review FAQ.


  1. what a SOLID book review! you should do this professionally!

    but 2.5 stars....lol...i'll pass.


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