We’re celebrating the publication day of Her Heart For A Compass by Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York!
Her debut historical romance novel is out today in hardback, eBook and audiobook. Her Heart For a Compass is a mesmerising novel of love and daring to follow your heart against the odds. It’s perfect for fans of Bridgerton and Victoria. If you love novels that are rich in historical detail and star a resilient and rebellious heroine, this one is for you.
We’re delighted to share this wonderful extract below, first featured in The Telegraph on the 24th July 2021.
Her heart was racing. Edging farther away from the hubbub of the ballroom, she came smack up against the balustrade, snatching at it just in time to prevent herself from stumbling down the steps and into the darkened gardens. The smell from the river was overpowering, but as usual she had mislaid the fan which should have been attached to her wrist.
Her hair would be frizzing in the damp air, ruining all poor Molly’s hard work. What she’d give to pull every pin from her rebellious red mop and let it tumble wild and loose down her back. At least then one part of her would be free.
The notion made her laugh. Her laughter had a manic edge. Her feet took another cautious step backwards, down the first of the steps leading to the garden.
She wasn’t running away.
She could not possibly run away.
She really ought to return to the ballroom and get on with it. Yet somehow she found herself at the bottom of the steps.
Inside, the orchestra struck the last chords of the waltz. She had three or four minutes at most. The dancers would be making their sedate bows and curtsies. She could picture the scene with jaw-clenching clarity. The ballroom would be a blaze of light reflected in the mirrors, for the candles in the three huge crystal chandeliers were all lit, along with the gas sconces. The crush of guests, the women in their colourful gowns and the men in their black dinner suits, would be turning to face the dais. The ladies would be plying their fans, the gentlemen dabbing discreetly at their faces with their handkerchiefs. The huge displays of roses would be starting to droop. Hers was not the only coiffure that would be starting to frizz.
Of their own accord, her feet began to back her slowly away from the house, along the path that wound its way through the garden to the wall bordering the Thames.
The press had been speculating about the announcement for weeks.
The highest born and most illustrious and influential members of society were present to witness it. Everyone who was anyone had come to Montagu House, for an invitation from the Duke of Buccleuch was second only to a royal summons. Not Princess Louise, though. Margaret’s oldest friend, who counselled her to accept her fate gracefully, was chained to the queen’s side at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, and would not be present to witness her compliance.
And comply she must! Margaret willed herself to reverse her progress, to return to the ballroom, and join what amounted to a victory parade, with herself the trophy to be displayed. But she couldn’t do it.
The truth brought her to an abrupt halt. From the very moment she had allowed Mama to persuade her to accept Killin’s proposal, she had been deluding herself. No matter how much her parents wanted it, she could not sacrifice herself on the altar of duty by marrying a man she knew in her heart would make her miserable. She simply couldn’t go through with it. Not even if it meant committing what amounted to social suicide, as it surely would.
Back in the ballroom, Mama would be standing on the dais, looking as fragrantly beautiful as ever. Beside her would be Papa, tall and ramrod-straight, his black evening clothes in stark contrast to his distinctive flame of red hair, which was almost as vibrant as Margaret’s own. He would be frowning, in all likelihood impatiently consulting his watch. And Killin would be standing at the forefront of the family group, anxious to confirm his place within the prestigious firmament of the Buccleuch dynasty.
Even as her mind raced, trying desperately to reason one last time with her rebellious instincts, Margaret’s feet inexorably resumed their backwards journey.
Go back in, she urged herself. She was, almost uniquely in her nearly nineteen years on this earth, about to make her parents happy and proud. But at what cost? She would become, in the eyes of the law and society, Killin’s property.
Margaret took a few more backwards steps. As long as she had the ballroom in sight, she could persuade herself that she might return there at any moment. She was keeping them waiting, that was all. Wasn’t that the bride’s prerogative? Though it must already be past midnight. Any moment now, Mama would send Margaret’s sister Victoria out to usher her back inside like a sheepdog rounding up a panicked ewe.
That thought sent Margaret backwards still farther into the gloom. She tried valiantly one last time to persuade herself to do the right thing. She pictured herself on the dais, placing her hand compliantly in Killin’s. He’d clear his throat before chiding her for keeping him waiting.
It was that, the thought of that incredibly annoying little habit he had and surely the most preposterous reason in history for calling off a betrothal, which decided her. If she returned to the ballroom, she knew she would be lost. Her courage would desert her, and before she knew it, the announcement would be made. On the other hand, if she stayed here hidden in the garden long enough, then her parents would have no choice but to finally put an end to her suffering. They would never forgive her, but on the bright side, neither would Killin.
More importantly, if she went through with this engagement, she’d never forgive herself.
Sorry, sorry, I’m so sorry.
Repeating that one heartfelt phrase to herself over and over, Margaret hoisted up her crinoline, turned her back on the ballroom, and hurried towards the shrubs at the very edge of her father’s property.
Tears streamed down her cheeks, mingling with the sooty concoction that blackened her lashes, blinding her. The scent of expensive tobacco filled her nostrils just before she collided full tilt into a man idly puffing on a cigar. She would have fallen, set off balance by the contact with his solid bulk, had he not put his arms around her to steady her. The collision overset her shattered nerves completely.
Margaret screamed, flailing wildly at him, attempting to kick his shins and stubbing her slippered toes in the process.
He let her go immediately. “Lady Margaret?”
She recognised the cultured Highland lilt as belonging to Donald Cameron of Lochiel, an acquaintance of her father and some sort of diplomat. “Leave me alone. Please, forget you saw me.” Needless to say, he ignored her plea. “What in God’s name are you doing out here on your own in the dark? Your engagement is about to be announced.”
“I thought I’d just pop out for a smoke first,” Margaret replied witheringly, well beyond any attempt to be polite.
Startled, he eyed the lit cigar in his own hand, before dropping it and stamping it out. “You’re nervous and no wonder. It must be a daunting prospect, especially in front of the great and the good. Let me lend you my arm.”
He spoke to her as if to a child. Lochiel was very tall and sombrely dressed, the type of man commonly referred to as handsome or distinguished. However, like most men, handsome, distinguished or otherwise, he sported a beard, and one of the most objectionable types, too, known as the Newgate frill, which framed his face like a wiry ruff. “I don’t need your support,” Margaret snapped. “For pity’s sake, just leave me be.”
For one glorious moment, she thought he was about to do as she asked. “You need a little time to compose yourself, that’s all. I can understand that, but really, Lady Margaret, it will not do to keep everyone waiting indefinitely, you know.”
Lochiel reached for her arm, trying to usher her towards the ballroom. “Come with me. Your parents and Killin will be—”
“No!” She pushed him violently away. Snatching up the folds of her gown, Margaret ran the last few yards to the garden gate. Heaving it open, she stumbled through, pulling it closed behind her, and fled into the night.