Alison Weir uses the plight of two teenage girls caught in the politics of Tudor England to explain the mysterious death of a young king and his brother in A Dangerous Inheritance – A Novel of Tudor Rivals and the Secret of the Tower.
Katherine Plantagenet, illegitimate daughter of the usurping King Richard III, and Katherine Grey, sister to Lady Jane, who ruled as Queen for nine days before Catholic Mary arrested her and claimed the throne, enjoyed the life of court at least seventy years apart, yet they connect with unlikely commonalities in Alison Weir’s historical fiction.
The plot alternates between the narratives of the two Katherines; although one is identified as Kate, and Weir dates the entries, you may need to consult English history to place the action that is often plodding and confusing. Both young girls are pawns in their families’ ambitions and greed for the power of the throne, and Weir offers personal glimpses into how their lives were overwhelmed by events. As each girl emerges from their naive innocence, blind loyalty changes into self-preservation.
To connect the two girls, Weir uses the mystery of young King Edward V and his brother, the imprisoned Princes in the Tower, both nephews of Richard III. Both girls also find themselves imprisoned in the Tower – at different points in history but basically for the same reason – they are all viewed as threats to the royal power.
Weil has the girls investigating the deaths of the Princes, while each is trying to survive in her own time.
Weir’s use of fifteenth century dialect in the girls’ narrations becomes tedious after a while, and 500 pages is a long time to listen. The history is unveiled slowly and the “mystery” gets lost in the descriptions of court life and the worries about loyalties, dissembling, and who will be next to lose a head. Despite the four pages of genealogy charts, the relationship of the characters is not easy to keep straight; basically, they are all related somehow but the many Janes, Elizabeths, and Katherines, and the switching back and forth across a century require concentration. After conscientiously including every detail and courtier of the era, Weil finally focuses the action in the final 100 pages on the mysterious disappearance of the two young princes.
Weil is an expert of these times, having written at least a dozen nonfiction books, including one on “The Princes of the Tower.” If you like long slow reads with that Tudor Flavor, A Dangerous Inheritance will educate you on yet another piece of that turbulent time, but you will need patience to plow through the complicated history.