The Duchess of York’s latest literary exploit has failed to hit the spot with reviewers.
Sarah Ferguson’s romance novel Her Heart For A Compass appeared on shelves on Tuesday, but received a lashing from the daily newspapers, with critics declaring it as more of a historical tome than a heart-throbber.
The 61-year-old’s Mills and Boon debut is set in the Victorian era and focuses on the life of a red-headed aristocratic woman who rails against the expectations of her family to have an arranged marriage.
Out now: https://t.co/xZRiV6RFxe
Video by Katy Ward. pic.twitter.com/WkZo25FZ7C
— Mills & Boon (@MillsandBoon) August 3, 2021
Lady Margaret is based loosely on one of the duchess’s own ancestors, her great-great aunt Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott, who was the daughter of the fifth Duke of Buccleuch.
But while Sarah said the 1870s-set book – which she co-wrote with author Marguerite Kaye – had been “15 years in the making”, it appears not to have quickened the critics’ pulses.
Instead, the Telegraph’s Hannah Betts claimed “nothing really happens” and that the book left her “bored”. She went on to describe the main character as “insipid”.
Melanie McDonagh, writing for the Evening Standard, called the book “amiable tosh”, and noted that the author’s own rollercoaster history “beats all the fiction that follows”.
It’s been 15 years in the making, but today is publication day around the world for my debut novel Her Heart for a Compass. I will be joining @clbleakley who is standing in for @reallorraine to talk all about it this morning #Lorraine #ITV
— Sarah Ferguson (@SarahTheDuchess) August 3, 2021
One of the main criticisms of the 500-page book, including by The Guardian’s Alison Flood, is the lack of “sexy shenanigans”.
“Bridgerton, this is not,” Ms Flood wrote.
Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir also notes the lack of “rumpy”, adding that the closest it comes to fulfilling the genre description “is a knee-trembling moment down by a lake with Cameron of Lochiel”.
Another reason for the pundits’ disapproval is the heroine’s apparent resemblance to the duchess herself, with many observing that both have red hair, write children’s books, enjoy charity work, and have faced negative press attention.
Ms Moir adds: “Fergie’s need to be loved and admired beats just as strongly in the pages of her 77th book as it did in her first – absolutely nothing has changed.”
Despite the book’s poor reception, the duchess appeared on ITV’s Lorraine and said she felt proud of the book, and to have “started a new career”.
Speaking to stand-in host Christine Lampard, Sarah said: “This is a breathtaking moment for me. I’ve lived with Lady Margaret for 15 years.”
She said she went to the romance publisher for help to write the book and was introduced to Ms Kaye, who has 58 books under her belt.
Both Ms Kaye and Sarah said they thought the book could easily be adapted for TV screen or film.
And in an interview with The Mirror’s Jessica Boulton, Sarah admitted she is already in talks with streaming services.
She said her ideal leading man and lady would be like Poldark stars Aiden Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson.