Tag Archives: Robert Parry

Book Review: THE ARROW CHEST by Robert Parry

Robert Parry’s THE ARROW CHEST is set in Victorian London, and concerns a struggling artist called Amos Roselli (based on Dante Gabriel Rossetti?), his muse Daphne, Daphne’s boorish husband and the young maid Beth who “does” for Amos.


When Amos is called to the Tower of London to sketch some bones found in an arrow chest that are believed to belong to Queen Anne Boleyn, mysterious things start to happen that he can’t explain. Before long, Lord Bowlend (Daphne’s husband) asks Amos to come to his estate to do a portrait of him. For those of you familiar with the tragic story of Anne Boleyn, it soon becomes apparent that a similar tragedy is unravelling in the lives of Lord and Lady Bowlend, who are 19th-century stand-ins for Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.


I loved this novel and thought it was beautifully written, especially the descriptions of the Isle of Wight. Although some overwriting was apparent, it was clear that this was a better novel from a technical point of view, than the VIRGIN AND THE CRAB. But what a pity to turn Lord Bowlend/Henry VIII and his friend Tommy Newman/Thomas Cromwell into caricatured monsters. Granted, the historical figures have a great deal to answer for. But the novel would have been much more satisfying had the bad guys not been so obviously obnoxious. Four stars.

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Book Review: THE VIRGIN & THE CRAB by Robert Parry

THE VIRGIN AND THE CRAB is about an unlikely friendship between Elizabeth Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and a brilliant mathematician named John Dee, who later became the court astrologer to both Mary I and Elizabeth I. I say unlikely, because princesses did not mix easily with common folk, not to mention the fact that Elizabeth was constantly watched during most of her young life, until she ascended the throne at the age of twenty-five, in 1558.


But that does not matter, for Robert Parry weaves a wonderful tale about these two personalities and the horrifying times in which they lived, when people were being tortured and executed for their beliefs during the religious upheavals of the 1550s.


Although I enjoyed this novel, I have to say I found the writing uneven. The scenes with Elizabeth are so wonderful, that the scenes where she is absent feel flat by comparison. It doesn’t help that Parry’s prose style is laden down with numerous tells.Take this passage told from the POV of an unobserved Robert Dee:

“I can’t tonight, Rosy,” Rochester groans full of regret, keeping her at arms length and with a voice that confirms how much better it would be to be placed between her warm thighs instead of outside at the mercy of the elements.

“Why, if you will not, then Master Englefield will not spurn me!” Dee hears her grumble. Pouting with her red lips, she lifts a length of blond hair from her chest and throws it back defiantly across one already-bare shoulder.

“Well, your good master Englefield is also busy tonight,” Rochester answers with feigned indifference. “Anyway, what should you do with a mere boy like that!” he adds, mocking, and takes her in his arms – all soft and yielding against his thick, chilly garments. “Experience Rosy. That’s what counts,” he whispers with some merriment now to his voice.


This passage demonstrates the perils of overwriting, the logical problems (if Dee can only hear Rosy grumble, how come he can see her flick her hair over her shoulder?) which shade perilously close to head-hopping, the mark of an amateur. Not to mention the fact that at 492 pages, this novel could use some pruning.

What is very good is that Parry wears his learning lightly and does not allow the immense amount of research he has done to get in the way of his story. Four stars.

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Websites to watch: A FEW MORE PAGES

I cannot say enough good things about this site. When I logged on, it was easy to find Katy’s most popular post, because she had it featured in a sidebar. Pretty soon, I was immersed in a Guest post by historical fiction author Robert Parry, whom I’d never heard of. I quickly put his 2 books on my Amazon wishlist.

But there was more.  Katy has set up 2 challenges for her readers, the 1st in a series challenge, where you commit to read a number of these types of books this year, and the 2nds challenge, where you decide to read another book by the same author.  And then there’s the first line challenge she put up on April 1st, with a clock timer to show how much time you have to enter.

In short, this blog is informative, interesting and so well organized it is easy to use. I am so impressed, I plan to come back to visit often! To visit, click here.

–Cynthia Haggard writes historical novels.  She has two completed manuscripts that will be published in the coming year. THWARTED QUEEN  is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear. FAMILY SPLINTERS is  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.


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