Thursday, September 24, 2015

"only with blood" by therese down

Set in Ireland during World War II, Only with Blood is a story of family, greed, and redemption.

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. 

Honestly, it's hard to really know what to say about Only with Blood. For the first 3/4 of the novel, I struggled to get through it. I think part of this is because I know virtually no Irish history, so the names and events, which I'm sure would have been significant to readers in Ireland or the United Kingdom, meant nothing to me. So much of the story surrounding Donal, the man who falls for Caitlin, centers on the IRA, and this plot line in particular didn't keep my attention.

While no one in Only with Blood is particularly likeable, I was drawn to Jack Flynn. Though he certainly had issues, he had a good heart, something I could sense from the beginning, even when his actions seemed to make him a villain. I especially appreciated the gestures he made toward Caitlin, despite her loathing toward him. There is a moment near the end of the novel when he explains to Caitlin why he married her, and that explanation gave me goosebumps and confirmed everything I thought I understood about Jack. The novel does end rather abruptly—as in, it doesn't really end—but I found that I didn't really mind. Jack and Caitlin's story wrapped up well, and that's the story I cared about.

If Only with Blood had simply been about Jack and Caitlin and the drama surrounding their marriage, I think I would have really enjoyed it. However, the politics—something I'm sure many readers will enjoy—kept me from fully connecting with and enjoying this novel. 2-1/2 stars.

Content note: Only with Blood contains a handful of swear words. It's not excessive, and the Lord's name is never taken in vain.

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Therese Down is currently working as the Head of English at a High School in England and has been teaching English Literature and Language for over twenty years in a range of schools and colleges. She holds a MA in Employment Law and is experienced in personnel management.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Kregel Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


  1. Oh my gosh! I liked Jack too!!!!
    here's my review -

    1. And we both talked about the non-ending! How funny!

  2. I had almost the same feelings on the book as you. The author did take umbrage with me when I said it contained profanity. Perhaps I should have said "swear" words as you did. Great review!


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