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Sarah Ferguson's debut novel will be published by Mills & Boon

Fergie Shades of Grey: Duchess makes Mills & Boon debut – and the heroine’s a flame-haired aristocrat!

  • The Duchess of York, 61, will have debut novel published on 3rd August 2021
  • Written many children’s books but is first historical fiction novel aimed at adults
  • Fictional account of great-great-aunt Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott life
  • Narrative incorporates research into royal’s heritage and draws upon life journey

Sarah Ferguson’s debut novel will be published by Mills & Boon – and is a fictional account of the life of the Duchess’s great-great-aunt, Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott.  

Whilst the Duchess of York, 61, has written many bestselling children’s books and several works of non-fiction, Her Heart for A Compass, which will be published on 3rd August, is her first historical fiction novel aimed at adults.

It is described as an ‘immersive historical saga’ that ‘sweeps the reader from the drawing rooms of Victoria’s court and the grand country houses of Scotland and Ireland, to the slums of London and the mercantile bustle of 1870s New York’. 

The narrative of Lady Margaret incorporates research into the Duchess’s heritage and draws upon her own unique life journey and experiences. 

‘It all started with researching my ancestry,’ explained Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie’s mother. ‘Digging into the history of the Montagu-Douglas Scotts, I first came across Lady Margaret, who intrigued me because she shared one of my given names.

Sarah Ferguson’s (pictured) debut novel is to be published by Mills & Boon – and will be a fictional account of the life of the Duchess’s great-great-aunt, Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott

Her Heart for a Compass (pictured) is a fictional account of the life of the Duchess’s great-great-aunt, Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott

‘But although her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch were close friends with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, I was unable to discover much about my namesake’s early life, and so was born the idea which became Her Heart for a Compass. 

‘With real historical events and facts to hand, my imagination took over. I invented a history for her that incorporated real people and events, including some of my other ancestors. 

Sarah Ferguson (pictured), 61, told how she ‘invented a history’ for Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott that ‘incorporated real people and events’

A special edition box of Milk Tray chocolates released to mark Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew’s wedding in 1986 

EXCLUSIVE EXTRACT FROM ‘HER HEART FOR A COMPASS’

Montagu House, London, Wednesday, July 19, 1865.

‘Ah, there you are! It’s fast approaching midnight, my dear.’

Lord Rufus Ponsonby, the Earl of Killin, was considered by most to be a presentable-looking man.

His angular jaw was invariably clean-shaven; his hair was perfectly coiffed. His tall, rather lean figure was always immaculately dressed.

His aquiline profile was suitably haughty as befitted an earl of the realm.

Every aspect of him was austere, repressed, and calculated.

Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott took an involuntary step back as he loomed over her. ‘I’m all too aware of that.’

As ever, he seemed oblivious to her prickly reaction to him.

‘Why are you skulking in the shadows?

Perhaps you are fretting about your attire,’ he continued, answering his own question.

‘Allow me to reassure you. Your gown is neither too simple nor too ornate for the occasion. All young ladies in their first Season wear white.’

‘Look at me,’ Margaret persisted, ‘don’t you think I resemble a ghost at my own betrothal party? I am, quite literally, a spectre at the feast.’

‘I think your tendency to be fanciful is coming to the fore.’

His lordship, his attention on his watch, didn’t notice the note of suppressed hysteria in her tone.

Lord Rufus checked his gold timepiece against the ballroom clock, frowning, checking again, making a minor adjustment, then checking it one last time before snapping the case closed and returning it to his waistcoat pocket.

‘We had better join your parents for the announcement,’ he said. ‘They will be getting anxious.’

‘I think if anyone has a right to be anxious,’ she said, smiling through gritted teeth, ‘it should be me. My life is about to change for ever, after all.’

Though he smiled in return, it was a token effort that failed to be reflected his eyes.

‘We are on the brink of a new life together, Lady Margaret. I for one am eager to embrace it.’

‘I created a friendship between my heroine and Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s sixth child, and I drew on many parallels from my life for Lady Margaret’s journey. 

Rich in historical detail and grounded in extensive research, the novel offers a compelling look at Victorian England in the wake of Prince Albert’s death.

It also focuses on the fascinating journey of a woman, born into the higher echelons of society, who desires to break the mold, follow her internal compass (her heart) and discover her raison d’être – and falling in love along the way.  

The Duchess joined forces with her ‘collaborator and mentor,’ Marguerite Kaye – who has written more than 50 novels for Mills & Boon set across the ages and her books and novellas have sold more than 1.5 million copies in over 20 countries.  

Mills & Boon – the UK’s number one publisher of romantic fiction – was established in 1908.

Its books – which are written by women for women – range from historical romance to rom-com and erotica, and one is sold every 10 seconds in the UK.

The duchess, who has previously written her memoirs, is the author of numerous children’s books including the Little Red and Budgie the Little Helicopter series, and she was an executive producer of the 2009 historical film The Young Victoria.   

In 2020 the Duchess published several new children’s books: The Enchanted Oak; Arthur Fantastic; Genie Gems. 

She has many more in the pipeline, including a new Budgie book.

Her books have collectively sold over 1.5 million copies. 

She has been reading children’s books throughout the pandemic on her YouTube channel, Storytime with Fergie and Friends.

‘I have long held a passion for historical research and telling the stories of strong women in history through film and television,’ she added. 

‘I am proud to bring my personal brand of historical fiction to the publishing world.’

The royal was pictured in a Victorian-style floor-length outfit, complete with high-necked blouse, jacket and gloves, sat on a stone bench gazing at a compass she held out in front of her, to promote the work. 

Executive Publisher for Mills & Boon Lisa Milton commented: ‘Across TV, film and books, history continues to grow in popularity. 

‘This brilliant sweeping story is perfect for our existing readers as well as reaching fans of bestselling novelists such as Philippa Gregory and Anne O’Brien. 

‘Mills & Boon are honoured to publish the Duchess of York’s debut novel as we move into our next century of publishing brilliant books by women for women.’

Her Heart for A Compass will be published on August 3 2021 by William Morrow in the US and Mills & Boon in the UK, both HarperCollins, but can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

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