Publication date: August 2021
Category: Historical fiction
Review, short version: Four skunks out of four.
Review, long version:
I enjoy novels based real people, so when I read that the lead character in Her Heart for a Compass was about Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott (1846-1918), I was interested.
I’d never heard of Lady Margaret, but the book’s jacket summary made her sound intriguing.
And not just that.
I was curious about this effort by the author – her first novel for adults.
The author is Sarah Ferguson, and the book’s cover includes her title, Duchess of York.
Sarah Ferguson, a novelist?
Show us your writing chops, Sarah!
Ferguson has aristocratic ancestry but led an unremarkable life until she became engaged – and married to – Prince Andrew, second son of Queen Elizabeth II, in 1986 when they were both 26. The marriage brought her the Duchess of York title.
Ten years and two daughters later, they divorced. Since Prince Andrew hasn’t remarried, Ferguson is still entitled to use the Duchess title, and after all these years it apparently still opens doors for her.
Without the Duchess title, I doubt the book would have received the attention it has.
Its 540 pages just aren’t worth reading.
Not much is known about Lady Margaret, so Ferguson took her own story and turned it into Lady Margaret’s, as she said in a number of interviews:
“I think people will see the parallels between me and my heroine Lady Margaret – she’s a redhead, she’s strong-willed and she’s led by her heart. She attracts the attention of the press and she makes a career in writing.”
Ferguson claimed to have done extensive research about Lady Margaret, and that led to discovering that she – Ferguson – was a descendant.
But for reasons unexplained, she never contacted another Lady Margaret descendant, specifically Conservative MSP Donald Cameron, a Member of the Scottish Parliament and Lady Margaret’s great-great-grandson.
However, a British newspaper, The Daily Mail, did contact Cameron, who had this to say about Lady Margaret:
She was “a stickler for convention…if you look at pictures of her as an older woman, she looks quite formidable…she married my grandfather and moved up to the Highlands and lived there all her life until she died in 1918…She had a pretty conventional life in many ways.”
Lady Margaret is not like the character as portrayed by Ferguson.
And the book is not like it’s described in some reviews:
“A Brilliant and Glittering Jewel of a Novel” – No.
“Bodice Ripper” – No.
“Racy” – No.
“Tale of Passionate Romance” – No.
“Mesmerizing and Unforgettable” – No.
Here are the descriptions I agree with:
“Interminable Doorstopper.” – Yes.
“A Slog with No Sex.” – Yes.
“Insipid.” – Yes.
“Blizzard of Clichés.” – Yes.
“Boring…Hoping for Something Better.” – Yes.
So, we’re left with a story about Lady Margaret that isn’t about Lady Margaret at all, and instead get Ferguson’s recounting of her own life, which isn’t interesting at all.
One final note:
In the book, Ferguson stresses that Lady Margaret hated the extensive attention she received from the press.
Another Lady Margaret/Sara Ferguson parallel!
It’s clear that Ferguson (nickname “Fergie”) hates the press, too.
For instance, see how she absolutely avoided press coverage in her ah…younger days?