Sarah, Duchess of York has told how her new Mills & Boon heroine is strong, rebellious, courageous and loves to ride side-saddle.
The Duke of York’s ex-wife has landed a book deal with the romantic fiction publisher, admitting she “drew on many parallels from my life” for the historical love story.
In a video released on Twitter to promote her debut novel Her Heart For A Compass, an excited Sarah, dressed in a Victorian-style outfit, perfect for horse riding, and a bejewelled headband, said dramatically, as she was filmed wandering through a garden clutching a compass: “Follow your heart. But do you dare?”
The book, set for release in the summer, follows a fictional account of the life and loves of the duchess’s great-great-aunt Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott who is banished from polite society after fleeing an arranged marriage.
The duchess, expressing her delight at her new venture, adds in the footage: “I’m going to take you back with the wonderful Mills & Boon HarperCollins to 1870 to the Lady Margaret.
“Lady Margaret. She loves to ride side-saddle. She’s strong. She’s rebellious. She’s courageous.
“We are going to publish in August 2021 and I’m so excited!
“So pre-order now and come with me on this extraordinary journey.”
The duchess wrote the book with author Marguerite Kaye and said she spent 18 months on the project with her “lovely friend”.
They worked remotely throughout lockdown, while drinking “gallons of coffee” and sometimes champagne, the writer revealed.
Kaye said: “What a journey the duchess and I have been on together!
“After some enjoyable early face-to-face planning sessions, the bulk of the writing has taken place throughout lockdown.”
She added: “We have shared hundreds of emails, daily WhatsApp chats and many lengthy phone calls, having so much fun and becoming great friends in the process.
“Gallons of coffee have been drunk. There has been the occasional glass of fizz. We have shed a few tears. And we have laughed – a lot!”
Kaye 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 describes the work 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”.
It follows Lady Margaret “who desires to break the mould, follow her internal compass – her heart – and discover her raison d’etre – falling in love along the way”.
Sarah revealed she came across Lady Margaret after researching her ancestry and became fascinated because Margaret is her middle name.
She also spoke of how she took inspiration from her own experiences when writing the work.
“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,” she said.
The duchess fell in love with Prince Andrew and brought renewed vigour to the monarchy in the 1980s alongside Diana, Princess of Wales, but struggled to come to terms with the rigorous disciplines of royal life.
Born Sarah Ferguson and nicknamed Fergie by the press, she once confessed: “I was hopeless from the start … they could never make me the perfect princess.”
She was cast out from the royals amid her “toe-sucking” scandal in the 1990s and fell deeply into debt – owing millions.
The Queen’s former daughter-in-law, 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.
She has been reading children’s books throughout the pandemic on her YouTube channel, Storytime with Fergie and Friends.
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 romcom and erotica, and one is sold every 10 seconds in the UK.
– 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.