Title: A Dangerous Inheritance
Author: Alison Weir
Genre: Historical Fiction
How I Read It: ARC received from the publisher – The views expressed in my review are mine alone and I have received no compensation for these opinions.
Synopsis: England’s Tower of London was the terrifying last stop for generations of English political prisoners. A Dangerous Inheritance weaves together the lives and fates of four of its youngest and most blameless: Lady Katherine Grey, Lady Jane’s younger sister; Kate Plantagenet, an English princess who lived nearly a century before her; and Edward and Richard, the boy princes imprisoned by their ruthless uncle, Richard III, never to be heard from again.
Across the years, these four young royals shared the same small rooms in their dark prison, as all four shared the unfortunate role of being perceived as threats to the reigning monarch.
*Synopsis taken from Goodreads
My Review: I’ve had a deep love for historical fiction for many years, and just this year I’ve made an effort to read more about the years leading up to Tudor England, particularly about the house of York and the end of the Plantagenet house. Any read into this time frame will lead you to the question of the Princes in the Tower, and the tumultuous reign of Richard III. This book leads us through the life of Katherine Plantagenet (known as Kate in the novel) before her father ascends to the throne, and then into the life of Katherine Grey a couple of generations later.
The focus of Kate’s story is mostly on her trying to figure out what has happened to her cousins, Edward V and Richard of York. At the beginning of the novel, Edward IV is still king and Richard III is just the Duke of Gloucester, so we see him in a more sympathetic light as simply husband and father. Kate was born out of wedlock, but is taken care of by Richard and his wife, Anne, as though she were their own. As events unfold, we watch how all of their lives change after the death of Edward IV and the eventual rise of Richard III.
Kate desires above all to clear her father of the rumors and suspicion about the fate of the princes. The novel essentially draws the conclusion that Richard III ordered the deaths of the princes in order to secure his claim on the throne, something that I have mixed feelings about. This is undoubtedly a mystery that will go unsolved for a long time to come, assuming we can ever find the real answer anyway, but I think the history of this question is rather clouded and it’s difficult for me to accept that Richard was a total villain. Even so, the novel does present a compelling story about what may have happened. And regardless of whether you’re for or against Richard, something definitely happened to those little boys, and that in itself is a sad story.
We alternate between Kate’s story and that of Katherine Grey, which I found to be very sympathetic. It seems to me that the Grey children had to pay a very large price for the ambitions of their parents, as Jane never seemed terribly interested in being Queen, and Katherine is forever under suspicion simply because she is a princess of the blood. In laymens terms, that essentially means she is related closely to the royal family in power. This novel made me wonder just how different Katherine’s life would have been if her family hadn’t been so eager for the crown early on. The course of history could have been changed, and Katherine may have been able to live a happy life had things just gone a little differently.
Given the details we read through the course of the novel, it seems a bit like Queen Elizabeth I overreacted when it came to Katherine’s life and marriage. That being said, Katherine did outright defy her Queen and cousin, so while I’m not in favor of tossing the poor lady in the Tower, she’s got no one to blame but herself for the fact that she ended up there. Her story is still an interesting one, and I liked the way the author tied these stories together through the investigation of the disappearance of those princes.
At times, this novel is a bit wordy. We spend a lot of time reading about Kate’s investigations into the princes, which ultimately gets her in trouble time and time again, and then Katherine’s obsession of the moment. I felt a lot of things were repeated, especially when it came to Kate either believing her father to be innocent or villainous depending on who she last spoke to. I understand there was a mystery she yearned to solve, but it got a bit tedious for me at times. I also found myself having to go back to the beginning of a chapter sometimes to see the date in order to figure out which lady we were reading about, but that’s really the fault of historical figures for naming so many children with the same name.
On the whole, I enjoyed it and I thought it was a good read that covered the last bit of the Plantagenet’s and various parts of the Tudor reign. I’ve always found Alison Weir to be an interesting historical writer, so I appreciated her take on this part of English history.
Read this book if: I’d encourage any fan of this span of history to pick this one up, it was entertaining, and a bit educational too.
My Rating: 3.5/5 – Two thumbs up, fine holiday fun!