Review: The Arrow Chest by Robert Parry

Ghostly hauntings, forbidden love, high society, the occult….what could be more thrilling? The Arrow Chest is a haunting Gothic tale of love set in the Victorian era with a distinct Tudor element.

Painter Amos Roselli has been in love with his childhood friend and muse, Daphne for years.

Daphne has modeled for a number of Roselli’s paintings for years, but when the rich industrialist Lord Oliver Ramsey of Bowlend commissions Roselli for a portrait he discovers the course of Roselli’s inspiration–the strikingly beautiful Daphne.

Ramsey pursues Daphne with vigor and vengeance, ultimately winner her hand. A marriage to Ramsey is ideal for Daphne. He is rich and can offer her a life of luxury and for a women like Daphne, this life has its own appeal.

She soon discovers that Ramsey is far from a tender, loving husband. He is  an uncouth, unrefined bully who makes her feel uncomfortable and under appreciated. He is a far cry from the gentle and loving painter she has become accustom to.

Along with losing his muse, Roselli seems to also be losing his mind. Roselli was commissioned to do some sketches at the Tower of London where the body of Anne Boleyn was discovered.

While sketching one night a beef eater stops by to keep him company, since the tomb gives Roselli the creeps. They have a nice chat about Anne Boleyn and her execution when the guard suddenly disappears.

When Roselli’s employers returns to check on his progress, Roselli thanks the employer for having the guard keep him company. To which the employer explains there were no guards available to send. A cold feeling comes over Roselli as he wonders who and what the guard was that spent so long talking to him.

Over the course of the coming weeks Roselli is commissioned again by Ramsey to paint his portrait at his country estate. Roselli makes the journey, eagerly awaiting his reunion with Daphne.

Daphne has always had an interest in the occult…tarot cards and seances mostly. And what better way to entertain their guest than having a dinner party and seance in honor of Roselli.

At the seance, even stranger things begin to happen. A voice from beyond the grave reaches out to the group. A voice that was beheaded in her former life and goes by the name ‘Nan’.

Soon Roselli and Daphne are haunted by disturbing dreams and visions. What is the source of these strange apparitions and occurrences? Could the ghost of Anne Boleyn be haunting them?

Meanwhile, dark thoughts are brewing in the mind of Lord Ramsey. He needs a male heir to secure his legacy, something which Daphne has failed to provide him. But that is not enough to end his marriage, he must find another way.

He can’t help but notice how close Daphne and Roselli have gotten. He soon becomes wicked jealous of the pair but perhaps an affair would provide the opportunity he has been looking for….a way to end the marriage.

My regular readers will know by now that I am a sucker for Gothic love stories….especially set in the Victorian era. I have had my eye on this book for quite some time. The first thing that caught my eye in the description on Goodreads, was that it was based on the Tennyson poem, The Lady of Shalott.

The feel of the book was perfect. It was spooky and dark, just how I like my Gothic novels. There were hints of madness and lunacy peppered throughout the story, along with ghosts and the occult which enhanced the mood.

I loved the forbidden love angle….girl trapped in an unhappy marriage in love with her friend who also returns her love but yet tragically they are not meant to be. That feeling came through in this novel but in a different way.

Normally, when I read Gothic novels with forbidden love as the central plot line, it’s clear that the two characters are romantically involved. For me, that didn’t come through that well for most of the novel. Daphne and Roselli seemed more like good friends than lovers.

It seemed like Roselli worshiped Daphne but more as a source artistic inspiration than true love. As for Daphne, I didn’t get the feeling that she loved Roselli, it seemed like she cared for him but wasn’t passionately in love with him. For me it took too long for the two to come together and the relationship was a little wanting in some aspects.

I also think the cover needs a redesign. The novel itself was very moody and dark and that didn’t come across in the cover for me. I wasn’t a fan of the floral edging, the woman with the ravens was alright but the edging was a distraction for me.

Besides some minor things, the novel over all was well written, dark, spooky and different. I liked how Parry blended the Anne Boleyn and Tudor history into the Victorian setting. At first I was skeptical but I thought it worked nicely and actually complimented the plot. Clearly Parry has done his research and knows his historic facts backward and forward which made the story that much more authentic and realistic.

If you are like me, you will find that there is a shockingly sparse selection of good Gothic novels. There are the classics like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre and of course modern Gothic novels like The Ivy Tree and some of Victoria Holt’s books but if you are looking for something a little different and a little more fresh, than this is the novel for you!

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: The Arrow Chest by Robert Parry

  • Kindle Edition
  • Published January 4th 2011 by Createspace (first published January 1st 2011)
  • ASIN B004HYHGCU
  • Review copy provided by: Author in exchange for an honest review

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 3 out of 5

Genre: Historic fiction, Gothic lit, Victorian lit, Tudor lit, British lit

Memorable lines/quotes: 

He has rarely if ever seen her behaving with such strangeness- her moods so changeable like the very weather he had been walking through this morning, one moment radiant and playful, the other dark and tormented.

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