Alison Weir's 'A Dangerous Inheritance' is written in two alternating narratives and tells the story of Lady Katherine Grey, sister to the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey, granddaughter to Mary Rose Tudor, and cousin to Edward VI; and alongside Katherine Grey's story, we are told the story of Katherine Plantagenet, daughter of Richard III, who lived almost a century earlier.
Katherine Grey, a very young and attractive girl, is married at the age of thirteen to Lord Henry Herbert, son of the Earl of Pembroke, in a double wedding ceremony with her sister, Jane, to Lord Guilford Dudley, son of the Duke of Northumberland. Northumberland, desperate to prevent the throne passing to the catholic Mary Tudor, tries to persuade the dying Edward VI to alter the line of succession so that Edward's cousin, Lady Jane, will succeed him after his death. When Northumberland's plan goes awry and Lady Jane is imprisoned and then beheaded, Katherine's marriage to Henry, which has not been consummated, is annulled and she is sent home in disgrace. With one marriage behind her, and her sister and father having been executed, Katherine must tread very carefully and when Elizabeth Tudor becomes Queen, Katherine has to be even more careful for Elizabeth sees her as a rival for the throne. When Katherine becomes romantically involved with Edward Seymour (nephew of King Henry VIII's third wife, Jane Seymour) against the wishes of Elizabeth, the Queen's wrath descends upon Katherine with dramatic consequences.
Interlaced with Katherine's story is that of Katherine (Kate) Plantagenet, the illegitimate daughter of Richard III. The reader learns of Katherine's early life and of how her father, the Duke of Gloucester, after the death of his brother Edward IV, takes the crown, imprisoning his nephews in the Tower of London. Kate, who loves and respects her father, slowly comes to the realisation that he is not the kind man she believed him to be and when she hears dreadful rumours about his role in the disappearance and possible murder of her cousins, the Princes in the Tower, she decides to embark on a dangerous mission to discover the truth about fate of her young relations.
This was an entertaining read of two young women whose lives are connected by conspiracy, intrigue and by their twin fates of being too close to the throne; of the two Katherines, I found Katherine Grey to be the more interesting and believable character and I became quite involved with her story. Kate Plantagenet's story, with her quest into the disappearance of the princes was a little less convincing, but it did add another dimension to the story and allowed the author to exercise more dramatic licence than might have been possible with Katherine Grey's story, whose life is the more historically documented of the two. That said, this is a richly layered story, which blends fact with fiction and is full of plotting, scheming, treachery and treason; and as Alison Weir is an historian with several works of non-fiction to her credit, this novel is written within an authentic historical framework which both educates and entertains, making this an ideal read for when you want to lose yourself in the past.