I had a few choices for this prompt, but went with Her Heart for a Compass by Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York. This chunky hardback – it’s 540 pages – was sent to me by the lovely folks at Mills and Boon.
What it’s about?
From one of the most famous former members of the British royal family, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York —a mesmerizing novel of a young noblewoman’s coming-of-age that richly details both high society and low in Victorian England.
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.
A bold and thoughtful story about a rebellious woman finding herself and her voice in an age of astounding technological change and great social unrest, Her Heart for a Compass is a delicious costume drama rich in atmosphere, history, and color.
What I think:
From reading the notes at the end of the book, it is clear that this book is definitely more fictional than some biographical historical fiction. Very little is known about Lady Margaret’s life which leaves lots of gaps for writers to explore.
Margaret is a spirited and rebellious young woman. She is willing to fulfil society’s expectations of aristocratic Victorian young women, but not at the expense of her own happiness. While she understands that she needs to make an advantageous marriage, she is not willing to completely compromise her own feelings.
Despite her privileged life and friendship with the royal family, Lady Margaret is socially aware and understands the poverty that is just a few streets away from her family’s mansion. The descriptions of her volunteer work are a stark contrast to ballrooms and tea parties.
What is apparent is how little control women like Margaret had over their lives while they were financially dependent on men, in Margaret’s case, her father.
Margaret really comes into her own when she moves to America in search of independence that is just not possible for her in London
I enjoyed this book but didn’t love it. The pace is quite slow and some of the scenes between Margaret and her parents felt repetitive. Overall this version of Margaret is a likeable and interesting character. I can’t help but think her fictional life may be more interesting that her real one.