Her Heart For a Compass – by Sarah Ferguson – independent book review – Historical Fiction (Scotland, England, Ireland, United States)

I knew Sarah Ferguson had written a series of kids books, so I was both surprised and intrigued when I learned she was branching out into the historical fiction genre (my favorite). And excited about seeing what a royal-insider might be able to do. Alas, awarded three stars on Goodreads.

You won’t see her name on the book jacket, but on the title page, you will see Ferguson had a co-writer, historical romance author Marguerite Kaye. Unfortunately, for me, even with Kaye’s help, HER HEART FOR A COMPASS turns out to be just an OK read.

The novel centers on a distant relation of the Duchess, Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott (1846-1918), the second daughter of a Scottish Duke of Buccleuch, who lived during the Victorian age (1837-1901). But this book does NOT actually tell HER story.

According to Ferguson, this story is largely made up — since virtually nothing is known about Lady Margaret. Which I suppose has the advantage of allowing Ferguson and Kaye free rein in creating this novel. Ferguson also explains in the Author’s Note that the book contains elements of her own story as well. Here’s how.

Lady Margaret is a free spirit who refuses to conform to the expectations of her age. She is more outspoken and independent than women of her age are supposed to be. She refuses to marry a man for the betterment of her family and disregards the wishes of her parents. All causing a scandal. Instead, Lady Margaret prefers to live according to what she believes and wants. (Sound familiar?)

How Lady Margaret experiments with her hard-won freedom (including travels to Ireland and later, the United States), how she manages to earn some money, how she tries to improve the lot of impoverished people, and how she deals with love — all these make up the substance of the story Ferguson and Kaye created.

Sarah Ferguson

It’s a fine story. It’s compelling enough to keep you reading. The writing is acceptable. But it didn’t quite hang together for me and it is probably about 100 pages longer than it needed to be, if it was a tightly written book.

So, if you, like me, are curious about what the Duchess of York can do as a writer, enjoy!

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