Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Review: Robert Parry's The Arrow Chest...a Gothic treat {plus giveaway}

My thoughts
I knew Robert was a gifted historical author upon reading his first novel, Virgin and the Crab. He graciously sent me a copy of The Arrow Chest to read and review and it too me eons to get around to it. Well, I hosted a lovely event at Castle Macabre in last month, Gothic September, and The Arrow Chest read-a-long was the star of the show. I am so glad I finally got around to reading it. I feel it would be a shame for anyone to miss out on reading this wonderful book.

If you have any love for the Tudors, you will enjoy this book because Robert takes his 19th century characters and creates them at a parallel with such illustrious Tudor figures as Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, Cromwell, Thomas Wyatt (the poet) and Jane Parker Boleyn. Mix this element with a genuine Gothic feel with the settings and ghosts and this book is a delight to read.

To give more insight into my feelings on the book, I'm going to share my read-a-long
observations with you.


Week I
Amos is quite a likable character. He's just as I'd imagine a young artist of the time to be. I like how he interacts with his maid, Beth, and I can't help but hope that there might be a future between the two. I know, I know...I should not hope for such things, but it seems I'm always for the underdog.

Lord Bowlend--Oliver--is quite a boar, is he not. I believe that Daphne has realized her mistake in marrying him. And what was that whole scenario in the study between Oliver, Amos and that Tommy character? That was quite a tense situation. It makes me wonder if there really is something very dark buried below Oliver's (somewhat) polished exterior.

Daphne is an enigma. She seems quite a smart woman and undoubtedly beautiful. I'm hoping that more of her character will be revealed as we continue reading.

Week II
Can I just say again how much I'm enjoying this book!? It's so wonderfully Gothic with all the ghostly apparitions (or ghosts who seem to be real people until they suddenly disappear...delicious!) and mediums and seances. Honestly, while I'm reading I'm transported. I feel like I'm part of the story.

Shall I reflect on the pomposity and utter asshattery of Oliver Ramsey? He is a most intolerable character. I really think I would have to slap him if I had to be in the same room with him. As Eliza pointed out last week, definite parallels with Henry VIII, with Daphne being the Anne Boleyn in the story. The whole, "I need a male heir" and his attitude toward Daphne when she miscarries. Really the attitude of him and the entire staff is reproachable.

I found myself wondering how Amos inherited from his father when he was estranged, but I guess estranged doesn't necessarily mean disinherited. So, his fortunes have improved, but is he risking it all for the sake of love and truth? Perhaps. I'm really anxious to see how this plays out.

Another quick note...I'm loving the flashbacks via Amos's dreams, where Daphne is clearly Anne Boleyn, but who is Amos from that past? I hope we find out!

Week III
It's the third week into our lovely read of The Arrow Chest and I have to say that I'm enjoying it more and more as I keep reading. With the terrific insight of my reading companion, Eliza, aspects of the story have been brought to light and have opened up my understanding of the parallels to the historic figures of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII and other surrounding players of that era.

In this section, we are really beginning to get a more Gothic feel, as I can't help but envision the castle ruins at which Daphne and Beth bide their time waiting for Amos and his carriage rescue. Beth's story is so heart wrenching. We get the connection of her to Elizabeth I...the early mistreatment she faced when her mother was so maliciously disposed of and the subsequent danger she experienced on her path to the throne. Even Beth's relationship with her sister hearkens to the strained relationship of sisters Elizabeth and Mary Tudor. I'm loving the friendship that has developed between Beth and Daphne because I'm reminded of mother and daughter and perhaps the sort of relationship Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth would have had if Anne had lived. I find myself hoping that Beth has a triumphant future ahead of her, even though I'm dreading that Daphne's will be quite tragic.

We really are getting the gist in this book that the plight of women really has not changed much since the sixteenth century. Women are still expected to marry according to position, often without love. They are still expected to produce an heir. And if any impropriety is expected, there is no end to what can be done to them, from being set aside with a divorce, declared mentally unfit and institutionalized, or worse, perhaps disposed of in the worse way...murder. All this, while the man can philander wherever and with whomever he chooses without even an eyelash batted. It's all very outrageous to a woman of the twenty-first century!

Week IV
Of course, the parallels still continued with Lord Bowlend becoming increasingly piggish and downright cruel. One of the things I detest from these eras in history is the terrible treatment of women. "Oh, I don't want to be married to her anymore, so I'll have her declared insane and commit her to an asylum." What an outrage! Thank goodness Daphne had someone there who cared about her. I really thought she was going to succeed with her suicide attempts. I have to say, I was very pleased with the outcome of the story. Can we allow ourselves to hope that Amos and Beth will marry? That was the impression I came away with and I honestly felt throughout that Daphne was nudging Amos toward Beth for that exact thing to take place. So, who was it at the end...Anne Boleyn's ghost or Daphne herself? I guess we have to come to the conclusion we believe to be true.


I hope I have sparked your interest! Read more about The Arrow Chest and Robert Parry below and then scroll down to enter the giveaway!

The Arrow Chest
London, 1876. The painter Amos Roselli is in love with his life-long friend and model, the beautiful Daphne - and she with him - until one day she is discovered by another man, a powerful and wealthy industrialist. What will happen when Daphne realises she has sacrificed her happiness to a loveless marriage? What will happen when the artist realises he has lost his most cherished source of inspiration? And how will they negotiate the ever-increasing frequency of strange and bizarre events that seem to be driving them relentlessly towards self-destruction. Here, amid the extravagant Neo-Gothic culture of Victorian England, the iconic poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’ blends with mysterious and ghostly glimpses of Tudor history. Romantic, atmospheric and deeply dark.

Robert Parry is a UK writer of historical fiction with special interests in Tudor and Elizabethan history, Victorian Gothic and Pre-Raphaelite art. His debut novel, ‘Virgin and the Crab’ appeared in 2009, and his 2nd, ‘The Arrow Chest,’ in 2011. He is currently working on a story set in the 18th century – entitled 'Wildish' - which, all being well, should arrive in February of 2013. His work spans the Tudor, Georgian and Victorian eras, and combines reality, dreams and the unconscious within a well-researched and vivid historical setting.

Details, plus news, competitions and more can be found at
Also, various articles by Robert Parry can be found at

To enter for winner's choice of a paperback or Kindle copy of The Arrow Chest (open internationally), head over to Castle Macabre and read Robert's post, The Importance of Being Gothic...then come back and tell me in the comments one thing you learned from the post. Don't forget to include your contact info (email, Twitter handle, etc.) so I can notify the winner. This is a quickie...last day to enter will be Thursday, November 7th at 11:59pm CST. Good luck!


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