Sarah Ferguson on Her Romantic New Novel: 'I Cry at Hallmark, You Know?'

The Duchess of York and author of A Most Intriguing Lady tells PEOPLE that she relishes in "the beauty of love and joy and magic"

Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson photographed with the Queen's corgis (ids tk) at the Fairmont Windsor Park
Photo: Zoe McConnell

Sarah Ferguson is turning the page with her new novel A Most Intriguing Lady.

Sarah, whose title is Duchess of York (and who is popularly known as Fergie), tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week's issue about what inspired her to incorporate a detective element in her new historical fiction novel, out March 7.

"I see everything as a wonderful sort of curiosity, and whodunit really . . . That's because I'm heavily into romance, and I love historical romance. I cry at Hallmark, you know? Just mentioning Hallmark, I could cry. I love romance, and I love the beauty of love and joy and magic," says the Duchess, 63.

"I believe that Lady Mary [the real-life heroine of her new book] . . . she's so me and I really have explored a whole different side of me through Lady Mary . . . And so now I don't worry about [someone] saying 'Oh, are you Lady Mary?' My answer is yes, you know?" she adds.

Sarah Ferguson Rollout
Sarah Ferguson. Zoe McConnell

As she did in her first bestselling novel, Her Heart for a Compass, the Duchess explores the theme of "invisible women" in history, shedding a light on stories that have previously been shrouded in darkness.

"I have been invisible for my own self for a very long time now, and so now I'm just beginning to sort of liberate and sort of test the waters, right?" she says. "So invisible women for me, and a voice from the grave is crucial for me, which is why I chose this period in history. Because for example, Lady Margaret and Lady Mary, all their brothers were written about but they weren't. So I think my real love is to take an invisible woman from the grave and say, 'Right, this is your story. How would you like it to be told?' And just tell it."

A Most Intriguing Lady: A Novel by Sarah Ferguson

The Duchess carries that value into her everyday life, a lesson she learned the importance of from Queen Elizabeth II.

"To take an extra minute, or to take an extra second and see someone who's shrinking away or doesn't feel good about themselves, I just want to go and say hi, how the Queen taught. I've watched her since I was 8 years old, this steadfast lady, [and thought] 'Well, how would she do it? What would she do?'" she says. "I think a voice for invisible people, not just women, is a really crucial thing in my life, because I have been invisible to myself for so long."

Sarah Ferguson Rollout
Queen Elizabeth and Sarah Ferguson. Julian Parker/Daily Mail/Shutterstock

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Bringing attention to a cause close to heart, the Duchess and her foundation Sarah's Trust have been active in Ukraine relief since the war with Russia began.

"My view is that a displaced child needs to be taught play and to help meet their fears and to be embraced and loved. And if you can do that and change the way they look at life, then you're changing the future," she says of the outreach.

"I think that grief and loss and pain are issues that we really need to address very early on, and that's why I do all my children's books, of which I've written 48," the author adds. "You can never be too young to learn about resilience, to learn about how you just get up, dust yourself off and get on."

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