Of Irish Blood

Written by Mary Pat Kelly
Review by Geri C. Gibbons

This is the sequel to Galway Bay and continues the author’s family’s history; this time the main character is based upon her great-aunt, Nora Kelly. Plucky and talented, Nora works for Montgomery Ward as a talented fashion designer, but her success in work is not mirrored in her personal life, which is a wreck. Going against her traditional Catholic upbringing, she has an eight-year intense relationship with unfaithful entertainer Tim McShane, who eventually turns violent. She escapes Tim and flees to Paris, where she finds work with a couturier making knock-off copies from leading fashion houses and leads ladies’ tours of Paris, which leads her into some fine company. Nora mixes easily with famous writers, artists and couturiers of the day, including Alice B. Toklas, Chanel, Gertrude Stein, and a bevy of American writers.

In Paris, too, Nora reconciles with her faith and, through a deeper connection to the Church, she is eventually drawn to a new love interest, Peter, an Irish professor. Peter leads Nora away from the social swirl of Paris life and into the Troubles in Ireland prior to the 1916 rebellion. Nora gets more involved in the rebellion, meeting other Irish female heroines like Maud Gonne. Although the men in her life lead Nora down a new path, it is through the women she meets that she takes action and finds her own strength.

The book is a breathless read full of strong women, and yet Nora struggles to find her place as a leader in this company. She does, however, find a sense of destiny, an understanding of her roots and eventually, of her place at home in Chicago with family.