Review of Only With Blood: A Novel of Ireland by Therese Down

Leah Courtney
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I'm not sure if Therese Down is a totally new author, but she was a new to me author. I've read historical fiction set in Ireland before, and I've even read novels that involved the IRA and the struggles that Ireland has had to be free from English rule in the past. But I don't think I've ever read a historical novel that really tied in Ireland's fight for independence with the historical setting of World War 2 as Only With Blood does. I was totally drawn in by the historical setting as well as by Therese Down's beautiful writing style and compelling characters.

A review of Only With Blood by Therese Down

From the book's description:

When dying Jack Flynn decides he needs a bride so that he can father a son, his young wife Caitlin proves far more than he intended to buy
Jack Flynn, strong and aggressive but slowly dying of tuberculosis on his farm in Tipperary in the Republic of Ireland, decides to acquire―purchase―a young wife who can bear him sons to inherit his family’s land. His choice, Caitlin Spillane, is less than half his age, attractive and intelligent, and resents bitterly the obedience that is forced upon her.
When a young firebrand, a supporter of the IRA, arrives in the village, he and Caitlin are drawn together in their detestation of Flynn. Flynn, traumatized by his own insurgent IRA experiences twenty years earlier, is secretly convinced that Eamonn de Valera’s more diplomatic, peaceful approach to Ireland’s problems is the only sane one.
Could Caitlin be won for the cause, and leave her unloved husband?
A novel set against the struggle for the heart of Ireland in the Second World War, when the IRA notoriously sought assistance from the Nazis, Only with Blood explores flawed characters placed in extraordinary situations.

At first I was disturbed by the character development in Only for Blood. I couldn't seem to make out the "good guys" and the "bad guys." Every time I decided to dislike one of the main characters, the author revealed more about their thoughts or feelings or memories, and I felt for them. I spent the first part of the story trying to form opinions about the characters.

And then I decided to give up. Because I finally got the message that (I think) was being communicated. We are all messy. There were people in this story that had noble goals and dreams and motives. But there were things in life that caused them to make decisions for better or for worse that ended up shaping them and the people around them.

Only With Blood is a beautiful, sometimes haunting, story. The characters and story line are very well developed so that I was drawn in and compelled to keep reading. I came to understand the time period as well as the people- real and imagined who must have lived then. I loved the book and was sorry when it ended, the sign of a book I truly loved.

I give Only With Blood 5 stars and a PG-13 rating (for violence). You can find it on the Kregel website here and on Amazon here.

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Leah Courtney / Author & Editor

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