Thursday, November 15, 2012

Book Review: A Dangerous Inheritance by Alison Weir


In this engrossing novel of historical suspense, New York Times bestselling author Alison Weir tells the dramatic intertwined stories of two women—Katherine Grey and Kate Plantagenet—separated by time but linked by twin destinies . . . . involving the mysterious tragic fate of the young Princes in the Tower.

When her older sister, Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days’ Queen, is executed in 1554 for unlawfully accepting the English crown, Lady Katherine Grey’s world falls apart. Barely recovered from this tragic loss she risks all for love, only to incur the wrath of her formidable cousin Queen Elizabeth I, who sees Katherine as a rival for her insecure throne.

Interlaced with Katherine’s story is that of her distant kinswoman Kate Plantagenet, the bastard daughter of Richard III, the last Plantagenet king. In 1483, Kate travels to London for Richard’s coronation, and her world changes forever.

Kate loves her father, but before long she hears terrible rumors about him that threaten all she holds dear. Like Katherine Grey, she falls in love with a man who is forbidden to her. Then Kate embarks on what will become a perilous quest, covertly seeking the truth about what befell her cousins the Princes in the Tower, who may have been victims of Richard III’s lust for power. But time is not on Kate’s side, or on Katherine’s.

Katherine finds herself a prisoner in the Tower of London, the sinister fortress that overshadowed the lives of so many royal figures, including the boy princes. Will Elizabeth demand the full penalty for treason? And what secrets will Katherine find hidden within the Tower walls?

Alison Weir’s new novel is a page-turning story set within a framework of fascinating historical authenticity. In this rich and layered tapestry, Katherine and Kate discover that possessing royal blood can prove to be a dangerous inheritance.

Ballantine Books (Random House Publishing Group) | October 2012

My Review

3.5 Stars 

Alison Weir's latest work of historical fiction, A Dangerous Inheritance, chronicles the lives of two young woman - Katherine 'Kate' Plantagenet, illegitimate daughter of Richard III, and Katherine Grey, younger sister of Lady Jane Grey.  Although they lived in different eras, the lives of both Katherines share several similarities.  Not only must they both survive in royal courts where enemies intent on bringing down either them or their families lurk around every corner, but they are also denied the opportunity to be with the men they love.  

In the case of Kate Plantagenet, once her father comes to England's throne rumours begin to swirl about the evil deeds he undertook or supported in order to attain and keep the crown, including those that claim he had his two nephews - the Princes in the Tower - killed.   Kate has trouble believing that her beloved father, who has always been kind to her, could possibly be responsible for such a  reprehensible act.  When she is forced to marry one of her father's most ardent supporters and move to Wales, Kate decides to investigate the mystery surrounding the young princes, hoping to prove once and for all that her father is innocent of having them killed. 

For Katherine Grey having royal blood proves to be more of a curse than a blessing.   By converting back to the Catholic faith, Katherine is able to successfully navigate through the court of her cousin, Queen Mary, without drawing too much attention to herself.   But when Queen Elizabeth I comes to the throne many of her opponents covertly rally around Katherine, seeking to depose Elizabeth and install Katherine on the throne in her place.  Although Katherine sees herself as the logical successor to Elizabeth, she recognizes that with the monarch keeping close watch over her actions one wrong move could place her very life in jeopardy.   Despite the risk, Katherine secretly weds Edward Seymour without Elizabeth's consent.  When the truth of the marriage comes out, Katherine is separated from her husband and imprisoned in the Tower where she begins to hear voices calling out for help.  Convinced that the voices are those of the two princes imprisoned by their Uncle Richard, Katherine joins forces with her kindly jailer to discover the truth about what happened to them.

Overall, A Dangerous Inheritance is an enjoyable and interesting novel.  While very little is known about the life of Kate Plantagenet, Weir does a good job of plausibly bringing this young woman sympathetically to life.  Weir's characterization of Katherine Grey, whose history is better known, is also well done, although given many of the ordeals faced by Katherine under Elizabeth I were caused by her own poor decisions, readers may understandably find it difficult to feel sorry for her.  Although I do not believe Richard III to be the evil king history has made him out to be, the fact that he comes across negatively in this book didn't diminish my overall enjoyment of the story.  While I enjoyed both Kate and Katherine's story lines in and of themselves, the constant switch in narrative from one Katherine to the other does interrupt the book's flow.  In addition, the common thread linking the two story lines together, the women's investigation of the fate of the princes in the tower, seemed forced.  As a result, I would have preferred their stories to have been told in separate novels.  

Note: An e-copy of this novel was provided to me by the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for a fair and honest review.