Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, has written her first novel for adults, to be released by the leading romantic fiction publisher Mills & Boon.
Her Heart for a Compass is based on the life of the duchess’s great-great-aunt, Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott.
She has previously written children’s books, non-fiction about Queen Victoria, and her own memoirs.
She said: “I am proud to bring my personal brand of historical fiction to the publishing world.”
“It all started with researching my ancestry. 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,” she added.
“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.”
The story will include some real people and events and also draw on the duchess’s own experiences but she said “my imagination took over”.
“I have long held a passion for historical research and telling the stories of strong women in history through film and television,” she added.
For the big screen, she conceived the idea for the 2009 movie Young Victoria, starring Emily Blunt and written by Julian Fellowes.
She was a producer on the film and her daughter, Princess Beatrice, had a minor part. The duchess also worked on a documentary about Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, Prince Albert’s mother.
She recently revived her children’s book series, Budgie the Helicopter.
Heart for a Compass was written with the collaboration of established Mills & Boon novelist Marguerite Kaye, who has created more than 50 novels for the imprint, set in a variety of eras.
The duchess’s novel is a saga that takes in events at Queen Victoria’s court and the grand country houses of Scotland and Ireland, and crosses into the slums of London and on to the bustle of 1870s New York.
‘By women, for women’
Mills & Boon described the story as a “fascinating journey of a woman, born into the higher echelons of society, who desires to break the mould, follow her internal compass (her heart) and discover her raison d’être – and falling in love along the way”.
Mills & Boon is the UK’s top publisher of romantic fiction and says it sells one of its novels every 10 seconds.
The stories are “written by women, for women, it has a romance for every reader promising a happily-ever-after ending every time”, it adds.
Other well-known names to venture into the Mills & Boon world include Made in Chelsea and I’m A Celebrity star Georgia Toffolo, whose debut romance novel, Meet Me in London, came out last year.
Best-selling authors have also created stories for Mills & Boon under a pseudonym, including Destiny writer Sally Beauman (Vanessa James) and The Shell Seekers author Rosamunde Pilcher (Jane Fraser). PG Wodehouse also contributed a story in 1912.