Years past at a library book sale, I picked up a book about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (Amazon) only to find out it was written by the Duchess of York. It was surprisingly good, surprising to me because I never thought much of Sarah Ferguson one way or another. When Her Heart for a Compass came out, I knew I would read or listen to it since you all know I love anything regarding the royal family.
“Queen Victoria’s close friend, the Scottish Duke of Buccleuch, Lady Margaret Montagu Scott is expected to make an advantageous marriage. But Margaret is an impulsive and outspoken girl in a repressive society where women are, quite literally, caged in corsets and required to conform.
When Lady Margaret’s parents arrange a society marriage for her, she tries to reconcile herself to the match. But shortly before her betrothal is announced, Margaret flees, leaving her parents to explain her sudden absence to an opulent ballroom stuffed with two hundred distinguished guests.
Banished from polite society, Margaret throws herself into charitable work and finds strength in a circle of female friends like herself—women intent on breaking the mold, including Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise. Margaret resolves to follow her heart—a journey of self-discovery that will take her to Ireland, America, and then back to Britain where she finds the life she was always meant to lead.”
Lady Margaret Scott is a lady after a modern woman’s heart. She doesn’t just want to settle down, certainly not to an arranged marriage, and is outspoken and a bit rambunctious, feeling oppressed by all the social niceties. This is the perfect set-up for a coming-of-age story, with a whole lot of 21st century feminism thrown in.
Her Heart for a Compass (Amazon) is full of history and atmosphere and is written as well as any costume drama I’ve read. The Duchess of York weaves an interesting story based upon historical fact. Her ancestor, Lady Margaret, did not conform to society’s norms, living in the north after banishment, and eventually found her way to the United States for a time, where she took the country by storm. But eventually she finds her way back home and finds acceptance by some who had shunned her when she refused her betrothed.
Lady Margaret shows her resilience throughout the book, just as Sarah Ferguson has. As she mentions at the end of the book, she often wondered where she got her forward personality, and while researching her family tree, she found this extraordinary aunt several times removed and could imagine the non-conformist life she led. That’s the great thing about historical fiction novels; they can find a person in history to which little is known, and come up with a plausible story based upon the facts that are known.
Overall, I was a bit surprised how much I liked this book. If you enjoy a good historical fiction book with touches of romance, this is for you. I’ve read some people comparing it to Bridgerton, and I get that, except I didn’t enjoy Bridgerton as much as I enjoyed this book. Eli Potter did a fantastic job narrating, and the forward and afterward by the Duchess added to the enjoyment.
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