How the book ‘bought by Harry and Meghan for £3 million’ film rights bears striking similarities to their own lives – from an argument with a best friend to a mother killed in a car accident
While Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are reportedly planning a production of Canadian novelist Carley Fortune’s romantic novel Meet Me at the Lake in an attempt to get their Hollywood dream back on track, they are said to have fallen under the spell of the plot .
The second novel from New York Times bestselling author Fortune is a romance about two long-lost lovers, Will and Fern, whose paths coincidentally cross ten years after first meeting and sparks fly between the pair.
That’s what an insider told me The sun that the Sussexes, who bought the rights to the book for an estimated £3 million, that the couple were interested in the novel because of the themes it explores.
They said, “The themes of the book grabbed the couple and it was chosen for their first adaptation with Netflix.”
In the plot, the two main characters struggle with grief, complicated family situations and an unexpected love story – all of which can resonate with the Sussexes and their own love story.
Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune is la
Here, FEMAIL dissects the ways the novel nods to Harry and Meghan’s own romance…
1. Based in Toronto
Toronto is a place the Duchess of Sussex cherishes, having lived there for seven years while filming Suits. She and Harry returned to town together to attend the 2017 Invictus Games
Fortune’s book flashes back and forth in time, with current events taking place on the lakes of Ontario, where the main character Fern runs vacation homes.
Throughout the novel, Fern looks back on her time in Toronto, where she first meets Will in her early twenties, while working in a coffee shop and studying.
Toronto is a city close to Meghan Markle’s heart, as she lived there for seven years while filming Suits, the legal drama that marked her big break in the entertainment industry.
Meghan previously said of the Canadian metropolis: “The people are so nice, I love the food culture and I really like exploring little corners of the city with my two dogs. I love how much green is tucked away.’
She added that in many ways it reminded her of her native Los Angeles.
After the couple started dating, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle showed up together in Toronto, where they attended the 2017 Invictus Games and looked in love as they watched the events and explored the city Meghan called home at the time.
In the book, narrator and protagonist Fern has moved to Toronto for college (in a move that mirrors the real life story of the author, Fortune).
Fern says of the city, “Coming to Toronto to study felt like moving to the moon. I wish I could play space explorer forever.”
2. ‘Single Girl Summer’
Meghan (pictured in June 2016) had a ‘single girl summer’ planned until she unexpectedly met Prince Harry
The current events of Fortune’s novel take place six weeks after the main character, Fern, loses her mother.
She is also somewhat recently single, having split up with her ex-boyfriend Phillippe after catching him cheating.
Writing about the breakup, Fern says, “We broke up two years ago and I’ve been on a break ever since…they’re relationships I’m not interested in.”
She then discusses the downsides of dating a man, including dealing with his dirty socks.
It is at this point in her life that her ‘one who got away’, Will, unexpectedly re-enters the picture.
The timing of the love story mirrors that of Harry and Meghan, as the Duchess and her friends recently revealed that she had no intention of looking for love when she met Harry.
Speaking on the $100 million Netflix docuseries Harry & Meghan, the Duchess’s English girlfriend, Lucy Fraser, discussed Meghan’s plans for a “single-girl summer” in 2016 — where she traveled several countries.
3. “What do you mean you didn’t google him?”
During a bombshell interview with veteran broadcaster Oprah Winfrey in March 2021, the Duchess of Sussex claimed she had never Googled Prince Harry before their first date
After Will reappears in Fern’s life 10 years after they first met and she struggles with her romantic feelings for him after he broke her heart, she confides in her best friend, Whitney, that she will see him again.
Whitney’s first response is to ask if Fern has done a Google search to find out what Will is up to these days and what his life might be like.
In response, Fern insists she hasn’t once looked up her old flame online – though she admits to the reader that this isn’t true.
The exchange bears a striking parallel to Harry and Meghan’s early encounters, as the Duchess previously claimed she had little idea who the Prince was before their first date.
Speaking to Oprah Winfrey in an explosive interview in March 2021, when she was pregnant with their second child, Lilibet Diana, Meghan told the veteran broadcaster
“I didn’t research what (joining the royal family) would mean,” she told the TV magnate, continuing, “I never looked up my husband online.”
The claim has been questioned by royal fans who seemed baffled that Meghan hadn’t looked up a member of the British royal family online before dating him – and in their Netflix documentary, Meghan revealed that she had, in fact, done some research on Harry.
She told the documentary that she hadn’t Googled Harry, but the mutual friend she set up had asked if she could take a look at the royal family’s social media account.
“I asked to see his feed,” Meghan recalls. “That’s the problem when people say, did you Google him? No, but (scrolling through his social media) that’s your homework.’
4. A mother dies in a car accident
Fortune’s book begins as the main character, Fern, mourns the loss of her mother who died in a car accident just six weeks earlier.
Prince Harry was just 12 years old when his own mother, Princess Diana, was killed in a car accident in August 1997.
In the novel, Fern is haunted by her mother’s death and wakes up in the middle of the night after having a nightmare where she takes her mother’s place in the car just before the accident.
The scene reflects Harry’s own difficulties coming to terms with his mother’s death in a car accident, which he exposed in heartbreaking passages in his memoir, Spare.
He recalled a visit to Paris, the city where his mother tragically died, and tried to understand how Diana died by asking his driver to drive through the Alma underpass, where the crash occurred.
He also requested that they go through the tunnel at 65 miles per hour – the same speed Princess Diana’s driver was driving when the tragic accident happened.
Harry said the driver was shocked when he asked if he knew the tunnel where his mother had died, and asked him to drive him through.
The royal revealed that he barely felt anything as he entered the tunnel, writing that it was “the bump that supposedly sent Mummy’s Mercedes off course.”
He told how he counted the lights and the pillar in the tunnel as his car whizzed by, but was shocked to see how short the tunnel actually was.
Harry recalled imagining the tunnel to be a dangerous route, but was surprised to learn it was a “no frills tunnel.”
5. Drink martinis on dates
Meghan and Harry’s first date was in Dean Street, Soho, where the Duchess reportedly drank a martini
As the romantic tension mounts between star-crossed lovers Fern and Will in Meet Me at the Lake, the pair are invited to a cocktail night where they can catch up for the first time.
Sipping martinis garnished with onions and olives, the lovers discuss the last decade of their lives and sparks fly again.
The choice of drink echoes how the Duke and Duchess of Sussex spent their first ever date at 76 Dean Street in Soho, London, which the couple opened up about on their Netflix series, Harry & Meghan.
They revealed their plan to meet at 6 pm, but after Harry got stuck in traffic on the way, he was too late.
Meghan told the documentary, “I was like, is this what he does? I’m not doing this. Like one of the guys who had such an ego that any girl would sit and wait for you for half an hour.’
It was previously reported in The Times that Harry chose a beer on their first date, while Meghan coolly sipped a martini.
6. An argument between friends
Meghan and her best friend, Jessica Mulroney, were inseparable for years until their relationship cooled off in 2020
In the flashback sequences of Fortune’s novel, Fern’s close friendship with her best friend Whitney comes to a head.
She describes being annoyed that Whitney rarely visited her at college in Toronto, and that her best friend clearly didn’t enjoy being in the city.
Later, in another flashback, Fern refers to an “argument” with Whitney that made their friendship feel “precarious.”
The tension between two best friends may be familiar to the Duchess of Sussex, whose friendship with Toronto-based girlfriend Jessica Mulroney has cooled in recent years.
For years, Meghan and Jessica were inseparable, and the fashion designer’s daughter was even chosen as the flower girl for the Duchess’s wedding.
Meghan and ‘Jess’ took sun-soaked trips to Positano, gushed about each other on social media and were photographed together at a number of high-profile events.
In 2020, a ‘white privilege’ scandal involving lifestyle influencer Sasha Exeter over the murder of George Floyd caused Jessica to lose her illustrious performance on Good Morning America (GMA) and be cut by Canadian TV network CTV – and rumors began whirling that her friendship had cooled with Meghan.