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Promise Me



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About The Book

The #1 bestselling author of The Christmas Box and A Christmas Memory presents a breathtaking story of the transcendent power of love.

Beth Cardall has a secret. For eighteen years, she has had no choice but to keep it to herself, but on Christmas Eve 2008, all that is about to change.

For Beth, 1989 was a year marked by tragedy. Her life was falling apart: her six-year-old daughter, Charlotte, was suffering from an unidentifiable illness; her marriage transformed from a seemingly happy and loving relationship to one full of betrayal and pain; her job at the dry cleaners was increasingly at risk; and she had lost any ability to trust, to hope, or to believe in herself. Then, on Christmas Day, as she rushed through a blizzard to the nearest 7-Eleven, Beth encountered Matthew, a strikingly handsome, mysterious stranger, who would single-handedly change the course of her life.

Who is this man, and how does he seem to know so much about her? He pursues her relentlessly, and only after she’s fallen deeply in love with him does she learn his incredible secret, changing the world as she knows it, as well as her own destiny.


Promise Me

There are days that live in infamy, for individuals as well as nations. February 12, 1989, was my personal equivalent of Pearl Harbor Day or September 11.

Beth Cardall’s Diary

My life was never perfect, but up until February 12, it was pretty darn close. At least I thought it was. My husband Marc had been out of town for several weeks and had arrived home at around three in the morning. I heard him come into our room, undress and climb into bed. I rolled over, kissed him and put my arms around him. “I’m glad you’re home.”

“Me too.”

I wasn’t really cut out to be a salesman’s wife. My idea of marriage is someone to share the weekdays with as well as the weekends. Most of all I hate sleeping alone. You would think that after five years I would have gotten used to it, but I hadn’t. I never did.

Marc was still asleep when the radio-alarm went off three and a half hours later. I shut off the alarm, rolled over and held to his warm body for a few minutes, then kissed him on the neck and climbed out of bed. I got myself ready for the day, then woke our six-year-old daughter Charlotte, made her breakfast and drove her to school.

It was a routine I had grown accustomed to over the last six months, ever since Charlotte started the first grade and I went back to work. With Marc on the road more often than not, I had become rather independent in my routine. I dropped Charlotte off at school, then went straight to my job at Prompt Cleaners—a dry cleaner about a mile and a half from our home in Holladay, Utah.

Marc made enough for us to live on, though not by much, and money was always tight. I worked to build us a financial cushion and for extras, as well as to get myself out of the house when Charlotte was at school. I’m not really a career gal, and I doubt working at a dry cleaner qualifies as such, but being cooped up in the house all day alone always made me a little crazy.

I had been at work a little over an hour and was in the back pressing suits when Roxanne came back to call me to the phone. She waved at me to get my attention. “Beth, it’s for you. It’s Charlotte’s school.”

Roxanne—or Rox, as she liked to be called—was my best friend at work. Actually, she was my best friend anywhere. She was thirty-eight, ten years older than I, small, five feet one, pencil-skinny and looked a little like Pat Benatar—whom you wouldn’t know if you didn’t do the eighties. She was from a small southern Utah town called Hurricane (pronounced Hurr-i-cun by the locals), and she spoke with a Hurricane accent, a slight, excited drawl, and used terms of endearment like rappers use curse words and with nearly the same frequency.

She’d been married for eighteen years to Ray, a short, barrel-chested man who worked for the phone company and sometimes moonlighted at a guard shack in a condominium development. She had one child, Jan, who was a blond, sixteen-year-old version of her mother. Jan was also Charlotte’s and my favorite babysitter.

I love Roxanne. She’s one of those people heaven too infrequently sends to earth—a joyful combination of lunacy and grace. She was my friend, sage, comic relief, confidante, Prozac and guardian angel all rolled up into one tight little frame. Everyone should have a friend like Roxanne.

“You heard me, darlin’?” she repeated. “Phone.”

“Got it,” I shouted over the hiss of the steam press. I hung up the jacket I was working on, then walked up front. “It’s the school?”

Roxanne handed me the phone. “That’s what the lady said.”

I pulled back my hair and put the receiver to my ear. “Hello, this is Beth.”

A young, female voice said, “Mrs. Cardall, this is Angela, I’m the school nurse at Hugo Reid Elementary. Your little Charlotte has been complaining of headaches and an upset stomach. She’s here in my room lying down. I think she probably needs to come home.”

I was surprised, as Charlotte was feeling perfectly fine an hour earlier when I dropped her off. “Okay. Sure. I’m at work right now, but my husband’s home. One of us will be there within a half hour. May I talk to Charlotte?”

“Of course.”

A moment later Charlotte’s voice came softly from the phone. “Mommy?”

“Hi, sweetheart.”

“I don’t feel good.”

“I’m sorry, honey. Daddy or I will come get you. We’ll be there soon.”


“I love you, sweetheart.”

“I love you too, Mommy. Bye.”

I hung up the phone. Roxanne looked over at me from the cash register. “Is everything okay?”

“Charlotte’s sick. Fortunately, Marc’s home.”

I dialed the house and let the phone ring at least a dozen times before I finally gave up. I groaned, looked at Roxanne and shook my head.

“Not home?” Roxanne asked.

“That or he’s still sleeping. I need to pick up Charlotte. Can you cover for me?”

“Can do.”

“I don’t know what’s going on with Marc’s schedule. I might not make it back.”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s gonna be a slow day.”

“Thanks. I owe you one.”

“You owe me a lot more than one, sister,” she said wryly. “And someday I’m gonna collect.”

Charlotte’s elementary school was only six blocks from the dry cleaner, just a few minutes by car. I parked my old Nissan in front of the school and walked to the office. The school secretary was expecting me and led me back to the nurse’s office. The small, square room was purposely dim, lit only by a desk lamp. Charlotte was lying on a cot with her eyes closed, and the nurse was seated next to her. I walked up to the side of the cot, stooped over and kissed Charlotte’s forehead. “Hi, honey.”

Charlotte’s eyes opened slowly. “Hi, Mommy.” Her words were a little slurred and her breath had the pungent smell of vomit.

The nurse said, “I’m Angela. You have a sweet little girl here. I’m sorry she doesn’t feel well.”

“Thank you. It’s peculiar, she was fine this morning.”

“Miss Rossi said that she seemed okay when she arrived but started complaining of a headache and stomachache around ten. I took her temperature a half-hour ago but it was normal: 98.3.”

I shook my head again. “Peculiar.”

“It could be a migraine,” she said. “That would explain the nausea. She threw up about ten minutes ago.”

I rubbed Charlotte’s cheek. “Oh, baby.” I looked back. “She’s never had a migraine before. Maybe a little rest will help. Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it. I’ll let Miss Rossi know that she’s gone home for the day.”

I crouched down next to Charlotte. “Ready to go, honey?”


I lifted her into my arms, then carried her, clinging to my shoulders, out to the car. She didn’t say much as I drove home, and every time I glanced over at her, I was surprised by how sick she looked. I pulled into the driveway hoping that Marc was still home, but his car was gone. I carried Charlotte inside and lay her in our bed. She was still lethargic. “Do you need anything, honey?”

“No.” She rolled over to her stomach, burrowing her head into my pillow. I pulled the sheets up to her neck. I walked out of the room and tried Marc’s office extension but only got his voicemail. I called Roxanne to let her know that it didn’t look like I would be back to work today.

“Don’t worry, baby,” she said. “I’ve got your back.”

“I love you,” I said.

“Me too. Give Char a kiss for me.”

Charlotte lay in bed the rest of the afternoon, sleeping away most of it. Around one I gave her some toast and 7-Up. A half-hour later she threw up again, then curled up in a ball complaining of a stomachache. I sat on the bed next to her, rubbing her back. For dinner I made homemade chicken noodle soup, which she managed to keep down.

Marc didn’t get home until after seven. “Hey, babe,” he said. “How was your day?”

I guess I needed someone to take the day’s anxiety out on. “Awful,” I said sharply. “Where have you been?”

He looked at me curiously, no doubt wondering what he’d done wrong. “You know how it is when I get back in town, it’s one meeting after another.”

“I tried your extension.”

“Like I said, I was in meetings. If I had known you were trying to reach me . . .” He put his arms around me. “But I’m here now. How about I take you and Char out for dinner?”

My voice softened. “Sorry, it’s been a hard day. Charlotte’s not feeling well. I had to pick her up from school. And I already made chicken noodle soup for dinner.”

He leaned back, his concern evident on his face. “She’s sick? Where is she?”

“In our bed.”

He immediately went to see her. I turned on the burner beneath the soup, then followed Marc to our bedroom. Charlotte squealed when she saw him. “Daddy!”

He sat on the bed next to her. “How’s my monkey?”

“I’m not a monkey.”

“You’re my monkey. You’re my little baboon.” He lay down next to her, his face close to hers. “Mommy says you’re not feeling well.”

“I have a tummy ache.”

He kissed her forehead. “It’s probably from eating all those bananas.”

“I’m not a monkey!” she said again happily.

I couldn’t help but smile. It was good to see her happy again. Charlotte adored Marc and missed him terribly when he was gone, which was at least two weeks out of every month. To his credit, Marc always did his best to be with us. He called every night to ask about my day and say goodnight to Charlotte.

“Did you eat dinner?”

“Mommy made me chicken soup.”

“Was it good?”

She nodded.

“I think I’m going to get myself some soup if you didn’t eat it all.” He raised his eyebrow. “Did you eat it all, you little piggy?”

She laughed. “You said I was a monkey.”

“That’s right. So you stay in your bed and don’t climb any more trees.”

She giggled again. “I’m not a monkey!”

“I’m just making sure.” Marc kissed her forehead, then got up and walked out of our bedroom, gently shutting the door behind him. “What’s wrong with her? She looks like she’s lost weight.”

“I don’t know. She came down with a headache then threw up at school.”

“Does she have a fever?”

“No. It’s probably just a little migraine or something. It will probably be gone by tomorrow.” I put my arms around him. “I’m glad you’re home finally.”

“Me too.” He kissed me. “More than you know.” Then he kissed me again. We kissed for several minutes.

I pushed him back. “You did miss me,” I said playfully.

“So, is the little one sleeping in our bed tonight?”

I knew why he was asking and it made me happy. “No. She’ll be sleeping in her own bed.”

“Good. I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you too,” I said. “I hate a cold bed.”

“Me too.” He kissed me one more time, then stepped back. “So you made soup?”

I brushed the hair back from my face. “Yes. It should be hot by now. Would you like some bread? I baked one of those frozen loaves.”

“I would love some.”

We walked back to the kitchen. Marc sat down at the table and I went to the stove. The soup was lightly bubbling. I turned the stove off, then ladled him a bowl. “So how was Phoenix? Or was it Tucson?”

“Both. They were both good. The economy’s hot right now, so these hospitals are pretty loose with their budgets. And the weather in Arizona is fantastic, blue skies and in the seventies.”

“I wish it was here. You shouldn’t have to breathe air you can see.”

“Yeah, I had a coughing fit the moment I entered the valley. We need a good snowstorm to clear it out.”

Around February the snow in Salt Lake is as dirty and gray as the underside of an automobile, and, too often, so is the air. The Salt Lake Valley is surrounded by the Rocky Mountains to the east and the Oquirrh Mountains to the west, so when a winter low-pressure front moves in, the pollution is caught inside until a big storm blows it out.

“I wonder if I’m coming down with something like Charlotte. Yesterday I got up early to work out, but I didn’t have any energy. I ended up going back to bed.”

“You’re probably not getting enough sleep. What time did you come in this morning?”

“Around three.”

“I really wish you wouldn’t drive so late. It’s not safe.” I set the bowl of soup and a thick slice of warm bread in front of Marc. “Do you want butter for your bread?”

“Yes. And honey, please.”

I fetched the butter dish and a plastic honey bear bottle from the cupboard and set them both on the table next to Marc, then I sat down next to him at the table, my elbows on the table and my chin in my hands. “If Charlotte’s sick tomorrow, can I leave her home with you?”

“I can’t in the morning. We’ve got a company sales meeting at nine, then afterwards I’m meeting with Dean to try to keep him from cutting my territory.”

“How about the afternoon?”

“I can pull that off.” He squeezed some honey onto his buttered bread. “Do you think she’ll still be sick?”

“Probably not. But just in case.”

He took a bite of his bread, then followed it with a spoonful of soup.

“How’s the soup?” I asked.

“You make the best chicken noodle soup I know. It’s almost worth getting sick for.”

I smiled at the compliment. “Thanks.”

“So how are things going at the cleaners?”

“Same-old same-old.”

“Rox been committed yet?”

“Not yet. But they’ll eventually catch up with her.”

“You know, all this traveling isn’t getting any easier,” he said. “It’s lonely on the road. I really missed you this time.”

“Me too. I hate the life of the wife of a traveling salesman.”

“That sounds like a country song,” he said. “Or an Arthur Miller play.”

“I hope not. At least the latter.”

He smiled and took another bite of soup. “Me too. The latter.”

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Promise Me includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Richard Paul Evans. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


For Beth, 1989 was a year marked by tragedy. Her life was falling apart: her six-year-old daughter, Charlotte, was suffering from an unidentifiable illness; her marriage transformed from a seemingly happy and loving relationship to one full of betrayal and pain; her job was increasingly at risk; and she had lost any ability to trust, to hope, or to believe in herself. Then, on Christmas Day, Beth meets Matthew—a strikingly handsome, mysterious stranger who completely changes her life. He rescues her from emotional and financial ruin, but not even he can save her from heartbreak when she's forced to make a decision that will change both their lives forever.


1.      This story is framed by passages in Beth’s diary, which we sometimes read directly and sometimes experience as a more traditional first-person narrative. We start in the present on Christmas Eve, moving backward in time to 1989, and then finally return to the present. Did you find this structure effective? Why or why not?


2.      Marc claims that Beth is the only woman he’s ever loved, yet he’s cheated on her for many years. Do you believe he really loves Beth? Do you think he ever loved her? What do you think his true motives are for finally confessing to Beth?


3.      Though we later learn that Matthew’s knowledge about Charlotte’s mysterious medical problems comes from the future rather than “just knowing,” it’s Beth’s trust in him that saves Charlotte’s life. Have you ever had a strong feeling or intuition about something? What did you do and what was the result?


4.      The characters in this novel experience many kinds of complicated love for one another. Identify and classify the different relationships in Promise Me, and discuss the complexities and benefits of each.


5.      If Matthew hadn’t confessed the truth, it’s likely Beth would never have discovered that he is her future son-in-law. When did you first suspect that Matthew might be from the future? Identify the clues the author gives along the way.


6.      In Promise Me Beth experiences a number of hardships and heartbreaks. She believes that she has brought these on herself, because she allowed herself to trust people. How can trust get you into trouble? What do you give up if you won’t, or can’t, trust others?


7.      Roxanne thinks Beth is a fool for sending Matthew away after he gives her a two million dollar check—the winnings from the bet he placed using her home equity loan. While it doesn’t change the fact that he stole, Roxanne notes that he could have easily skipped town with the winnings. What if he’d lost? Do you think the ends justify the means? What do you think of Beth’s decision to put him down as a co-signer on the loan after knowing him for such a short time?


8.      Matthew’s revelation—that he is in fact Charlotte’s future husband—is a stunner. But in Beth’s timeline, Charlotte is still a child. She’ll never be hurt if Matthew chooses to stay with her mother instead of returning to his own present to be with her. So why doesn’t Beth ask him to stay? What would you do?


9.      The theme of living each day to its fullest is prevalent in this story, with several characters suffering from fatal illnesses or otherwise having limited time. Describe some of the things Beth and Matthew do with their precious ten months. What would you do if you had only ten months with someone you loved and money was no object? If you suddenly had only a limited time left with someone you loved, would you wish you’d never met them at all rather than suffer the pain of losing them? Why or why not?


10.  Beth suggests that if she’d known Marc would cheat on her, she’d never have married him. But Matthew argues she would have, because otherwise she wouldn’t have had Charlotte. Every choice we make in life has consequences. If you could relive your life knowing what you know now, what would you do differently? What wouldn’t you change?


11.  At one point, Beth and Matthew discuss what would happen if they ran into his parents, or his ten-year-old self, in Capri. Would you want to see yourself as a child if you could? What, if anything, would you say?


12.  Matthew seems like the perfect guy—an angel sent to save Beth from a life of loneliness. However, in the end, he isn’t the guy for Beth, and he leaves her. Beth writes in her diary, “I have wondered if those who say ‘it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’ have ever lost their loved.” (p. 286) How do you feel about this observation? Do you think Beth would ultimately agree or disagree that it’s better to have loved and lost? What does Matthew do for Beth besides give her another lost love to grieve?


13.  The author leads Matthew—and us—to believe that Matthew will return to 2008 only to lose Charlotte. We don’t even know if he’ll remember his extraordinary journey to the past. How did you feel about the ending? Were you satisfied? Why or why not?



1.      Experts estimate that there are more than two million undiagnosed sufferers of Celiac disease in the United States alone. Get some insight into the challenges Beth and Charlotte face by examining your current eating habits and noting what foods you’d have to give up. Try making some gluten-free snacks to share with your bookclub. You can find recipes and more information on the Celiac Sprue Association’s website:


2.      At one point, Beth and Matthew make a kind of “Bucket List.” What’s on Beth’s list? What’s on yours? Make a list of at least ten things you want to do before you die and take turns reading them out loud to your book club. Together, make a pledge to do at least one of these things in the next year.


3.      Matthew goes back in time nineteen years to 1989. Plan a “Bring Back the ‘80s” party with your fellow book club members, including popular party snacks, games, movies, and music from 1989. See if you feel transported back to a different decade, as Beth did when Matthew held her in the final pages of the novel.



Promise Me is your sixteenth novel.  Since your very first success, The Christmas Box, each of your novels have been New York Times bestsellers. What is the secret to your success and longevity in a business as competitive as publishing?

My readers, of course. I have remarkable fans. Eight years ago when a bookstore chain decided to ban one of my books, three of my fans were so upset that they were actually removed from the offending store by the police. They have stuck with me through thick and thin. I adore them.

The other secret isn’t much of a secret. It’s commitment. Shortly after the success of my first book, I had the pleasure and privilege of having lunch with an author I greatly admire, Mary Higgins Clark. As a newcomer to the field, I asked Mary what her secret was to having such a long and distinguished career. I’ll never forget her response: “I respect my readers enough that I try to make each new book my best one yet.” I’ve tried to follow her advice ever since.

Promise Me uses the literary technique of magical realism. Is this something you’ve done before?

I’ve used magical realism in two of my novels, The Christmas Box and The Gift, both of which were very popular. On a personal level, I enjoy reading fantasy, so using magical realism not only makes for a satisfying and interesting read, but is fun to write as well.

One of the characters in Promise Me suffers from Celiac disease. Is this something you know about first hand?

We should put a “spoiler alert” before that question! My publisher referred to Promise Me as the world’s first “Gluten Free” novel. Fortunately, I have no personal experience with the disease. However, I had a close friend who was allergic to gluten, and I was surprised at how much it changed her life. So, I have a fairly good idea of just how debilitating the disease can be. It worked well in Promise Me because it is so difficult to diagnose. 

You often describe food and meals in your books. Is there a reason for this?

One of the few universal things all humans have in common and, hopefully, do every day, is eat.  It’s not only a defining aspect of our lives but of our culture as well. To understand this better, just compare the laborious, slow Italian cuisine to America’s fast food culture. To butcher a phrase, we are—culturally—what we eat. Therefore, by putting food in a book, we better understand the character and the setting. 

We also understand circumstances differently as well. Whether someone is sitting down to an elegant meal or a thin bowl of gruel with a crust of bread, we put ourselves in the position of the character and feel their circumstances with real understanding. In The Christmas Box one of the protagonists drinks peppermint tea.In The Sunflower they eat piranha for one of their meals.  Both tell you more about their circumstance and character than you could write in pages.

In Promise Me, your main characters take a fantastic European vacation. Have you traveled yourself over the past year?

My wife, Keri, just recently started taking groups to Italy, and last summer I had the time to accompany her as I was finishing Promise Me. Even though we had lived in Italy for nearly two years, I had never been to the island of Capri. I so completely fell in love with the island that I decided to make it a key place in my book. I can’t imagine a more romantic spot anywhere in the world. 

In so many of your novels there is a poignant Christmas scene that becomes the turning point of the story. Why have you chosen that day to climax your stories?

Call it superstition, but I have made a reference to Christmas in every novel since my first, The Christmas Box. I think it’s a way for me to continue to connect to the magic that opened the door to success for me in the first place. I’ve heard of other authors and filmmakers who do the same thing, so it doesn’t surprise me. Maybe it’s connection, maybe it’s security, or maybe it’s just an inside joke for ourselves. Having said this, I admit that I love everything about Christmas: the meaning, the love, the sights, the sounds—even the smells. As I wrote in The Christmas Box: the smells of Christmas are the smells of childhood. I couldn’t agree more. 

About The Author

Photo by Emily Drew.

Richard Paul Evans is the #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than forty novels. There are currently more than thirty-five million copies of his books in print worldwide, translated into more than twenty-four languages. Richard is the recipient of numerous awards, including two first place Storytelling World Awards, the Romantic Times Best Women’s Novel of the Year Award, and five Religion Communicators Council’s Wilbur Awards. Seven of Richard’s books have been produced as television movies. His first feature film, The Noel Diary, starring Justin Hartley (This Is Us) and acclaimed film director, Charles Shyer (Private Benjamin, Father of the Bride), premiered in 2022. In 2011 Richard began writing Michael Vey, a #1 New York Times bestselling young adult series which has won more than a dozen awards. Richard is the founder of The Christmas Box International, an organization devoted to maintaining emergency children’s shelters and providing services and resources for abused, neglected, or homeless children and young adults. To date, more than 125,000 youths have been helped by the charity. For his humanitarian work, Richard has received the Washington Times Humanitarian of the Century Award and the Volunteers of America National Empathy Award. Richard lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife, Keri, and their five children and two grandchildren. You can learn more about Richard on his website

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 5, 2010)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781439150030

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"Another magical novel. . . . The unexpected twist propels the novel forward, making the book impossible to put down. . . . Evans’ many fans will enjoy this inventive, heartwarming tale."

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