A Dangerous Inheritance: A Novel of Tudor Rivals and the Secret of the Tower by Alison Weir

by Alison Weir
Royal blood curses these women as their hopes and dreams are shattered

 A Dangerous Inheritance: A Novel of Tudor Rivals and the Secret of the Tower by Alison Weir
Ballantine Books October 2, 2012
Hardcover 528 pages
Review copy provided from the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:

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.

The setting: c.1553-1563; Lady Katherine Grey during the reigns of Lady Jane Grey, Mary I, Elizabeth I
The other setting: c.1483-1486; Kate Plantagenet, during her father Richard III- later known as the usurper’s reign- and Henry VII

The quick review: The ‘same-old same-old’ given an updated look through the eyes of two different women; great stuff for those who adore fan fic of Wars of the Roses and the Tudor Dynasty, but could be a long drawn out bland blah blah blah to those who have read all about the R3 + Princes events over and over and over again.

The long review:
A Dangerous Inheritance features an interesting format with the narration, as it brings us the story of two women about seventy years apart. Katherine Grey will be somewhat familiar to Tudor fans as the younger sister of the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey (the Nine Days Queen), and Kate Plantagenet brings us a ‘new’ look at the reign of Richard III and the nephews he is rumored to have killed in the tower. The events are the same as we know of history, aficionados may find themselves bored for the lack of ‘new’ material, but one can take comfort in the fictionalized account of these women who typically fade in the background of other novels of their respective eras. It was an interesting format with the switching back and forth of Kate and Katherine, and only a few times I had to readjust the time frame in my mind to get back on the same track. Even though the women are living in a different century, Weir presents their story as a simultaneous timeline so it was easy to get confused as to who was pining for who amongst the endless list of titles of the lords of the realm.

The themes of the women are the same: they each fall in love with a man that due to their royal blood could not be allowed to love freely but each of them handle their woes differently. Katherine Grey, a cousin to Elizabeth I, eventually finds herself in a treasonous love affair with Ned Seymour, and Kate Plantagenet is like a tumbleweed in the midst of the warring factions of the Wars of the Roses. What is most intriguing about Kate is I have barely heard mention of her at all in the other novels, so even though I could barely stomach the redundancy of the Richard III events I was still intrigued by what happens to Kate because that was one thing I had no prior knowledge of. During the story of these women, they each try to discover what happened to the Princes in the Tower; Kate being a staunch supporter of her father, and Katherine fearing their fate and her own will meet somewhere.

When Katherine Grey comes across possible places where Kate could have been decades before her, Katherine gets the heebie-jeebies and all distraught and full of sudden despair until she steps out of the draft kinda thing.. and that can get old after the second instance…but I think along with the Princes Mystery this was supposed to be the underlying theme that connected the two women. (It was perhaps the only silly part of the novel, which is lame because was this really supposed to be the main thing??) I think if Weir added a little more oomph and didn’t try to downplay the ghost thing maybe she could have filled it out more instead of making it seem like a half-hearted attempt at creativity and too fluffy for a Weir novel.

This attempt of ghostly reincarnations/visions/manifestations was thrown in to perhaps make this a different kind of Tudor/Wars of the Roses type of novel, and the fact that the two women’s stories are presented together also makes it different; but I still think you really have to be in the mood for this one since Weir likes to add many details that tend to bog down the actual novelization. Even though it focuses on the important events of their times, it also focuses on their loves and losses which humanizes these two women in a fantastic fashion. The title A Dangerous Inheritance implies these women who are born too close to the throne for comfort, and their travails were well fleshed out as such. I could truly empathize with these two young women, and I appreciated their stories very much.

But, there was indeed another ‘silly part’ was the amount of time Sir Edward Warner (jailer!) spent with Katherine as they picked each other’s brains regarding the lost princes. In prison in the tower, Katherine would not have had opportunity to do much of anything at all, so Edward Warner was used by the author to give her a bit of life behind those walls, but the extent – and content – of the discussions started to feel a bit over the top. And when Katherine is thinking ‘in her head’ about the princes, it sounds awfully like it would from a book the author would write herself (perhaps The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir?).

I am kind of on the fence about this one because it was well written and it does offer a lot of insight with it being over 500 pages, but as a novel goes I just wish I were a bit more entertained. I think maybe those readers who are just getting their feet wet with the two eras would enjoy this novel because Weir does a fabulous job of depicting the eras and the important events surrounding Katherine and Kate. She holds true to the typical portrayals of the rulers: Richard III is the crown grasping ogre, Henry VII is an ugly little miser, Lady Jane Grey is the proud victim, Mary I is the Spaniard loving burner of heretics, Elizabeth I is shrewd/powerful/paranoid. And I am beginning to hate Richard III just about as much as the author, so even though I love the many facets of the Wars of the Roses, after reading this one and Gregory’s The Kingmaker’s Daughter I am making a mental note to not read another Richard III book for at least a year.

I am also of the opinion that ‘famous’ authors who are viewed as historians have to be near perfect in order to please many readers (I am thinking of Philippa Gregory, of course). If this novel were not written by Alison Weir but someone a bit more obscure, perhaps it would be seen as a triumph. We always have such high expectations for the big name type authors. Again, this is why I am on the fence. I am so sorry this is such a long rambling review, I tend to do this when I can’t decide which way to go with it. =)

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10 Comments

Filed under #histnov, 2012 Releases, 2012 Review, Alison Weir, Lady Jane Grey, Richard III

10 responses to “A Dangerous Inheritance: A Novel of Tudor Rivals and the Secret of the Tower by Alison Weir

  1. Thanks for the honest review — I might just skip this one as it does seem to be more of the "same old same old." I do have Alison Weir's Six Wives of Henry VIII which is my bible, so to speak, on that topic. And I do know what you mean about lacking some entertainment value — her writing is well researched, but not exactly "page turning."

  2. I haven't read this one but I've read SO many books set in this time and place that I might wait until I'm in the mood again before I pick this one up. I think the reason I loved Hilary Mantel's 2 latest was because they were told from a point of view of Thomas Cromwell and it was a whole different perspective.

  3. I actually liked the Edward Warner conversations, and thought it was a clever device–Weir's un-Ricardian version of Josephine Tey's Daughter of Time. Where it bogged down for me was that except for Warner, all of the male characters were so unlikable, and I couldn't warm to Katherine Plantagenet either.

  4. I felt those convos were just a bit too chummy… What of Ned Seymour, did you dislike him? I liked him- and felt Kate's husband was a bit exaggerated with the ferret face but yes he was a horrible man!

  5. Thanks for the thorough review. I'm quite familiar with this period in history, and am staunchly pro-Richardian, so I'm not sure this one will be for me.

  6. Question: how close do you think the Tudor-royalty subgenre is getting to being completely played out? I came back from the HCD conference with no fewer than three books that began "The Queen's…" and I'm beginning to wonder, will it never end?

  7. Great question. Personally I would think that there are new "waves" of readers that would be entering the sub-genre, and those of us who are no longer newbies aren't going to be the ones who are buying all those new "The Queen's.." titles, unless they are from favorite authors.

  8. I love this!!! Marie your spunk is what brings me back here all the time!! I think I'm also getting a bit jaded by too much on this period. And enough with Richard too before I get brainwashed completely- and enough with making Mary into a vampire…The part of your review that turned me off about this book (besides the fact that I've read this period too many times and so nothing new!) is the fact that she had to bring in ghosts…oh dear…We do expect more from big name authors- true- but then again, all the more reason for them to own up to producing better stuff.thanks Marie- I love reading your reviews:)

  9. Thanks for this review Marie. I haven't read a lot about the War of the Roses period and don't know too much about Katherine Grey. I like the idea that these two women are tied together despite the passing of history. I have only previously read her other novel, Innocent Traitor, which I very much enjoyed. I have several of her histories on my shelves. I might hold off on making a decision about this one – but you review is certainly food for thought.

  10. This is yet another book I have waiting on my shelf! I like your caption underneath the review picture "For R3 Non Fans", I also like your short review and long review 😉 This will actually be the first novel by Alison Weir that I have ever read, so maybe I will think it more of a triumph since I have no prior opinion of her. Although I am a R3 fan, so we shall see, lol.

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