A Dangerous Inheritance - Alison Weir Apparently having royal blood really sucks.

Anything with the words "Princes in the Tower" somewhere in the description gets my attention, and I was interested right away in these intertwining stories of two women, one Richard III's illegitimate daughter and one a possible heir to the throne in Tudor England. The parallels between them are striking, and Weir deftly weaves their lives together. Both were branded traitors after their families fell out of royal favor, both were forbidden to marry those they loved, and both suffered innumerable sorrows simply because of their royal blood.

Keeping the two stories straight in my head was difficult at first--perhaps they were a bit too similar. But Weir wisely tells one story in first person and one in third, and it becomes easier after a short while to differentiate between the two. Both of the girls--for they are girls at first, barely out of childhood--start off somewhat naive, and go through the tragedy of seeing their hopes dashed and their heroes brought low.

Katherine "Kate" Plantagenet's view of her father, Richard III, is more sympathetic than many accounts, and the impression is that of a loving father and husband who slowly gets caught up in his own paranoia and starts seeing threats to himself everywhere. Kate, after hearing the rumors that he killed the Princes in the Tower, vows to find out the truth and clear his name. She writes down some of her theories, and these are discovered decades later by Katherine Grey, the other protagonist of the book, who eventually becomes obsessed with learning the answer to the mystery of the princes as well. Grey feels something of a mystical connection to this other Katherine, as though in death her ghost is determined to discover the truth she could not find in life.

By the end of the book I got the impression that being a royal woman during these times was more of a curse than a blessing. You were used as a pawn by those seeking to gain power, forced to marry (or NOT marry) against your will, and you were basically powerless to change your fate. Sometimes your efforts got you locked in the Tower of London, and sometimes, through no fault of your own, your head got cut off.

This book was enjoyable and compelling, and made me want to read more about the time periods described in the book. It's the first book of Weir's I've read, and I will definitely be picking up more of her work.