LONDON (AP) _ Scarlet hussy or persecuted flop?

Take your pick from two new, unabashed books about Sarah Ferguson, the fizzy, freewheeling jet-setter who married Prince Andrew and then very publicly fell from grace.

According to ``Fergie: Her Secret Life,'' by former pal Allan Starkie, Fergie is a shallow, bawdy woman who tramped through a series of extramarital affairs and ran up huge debts flitting about the world.

In Fergie's version, ``My Story,'' ghost-written by American sports writer Jeff Coplon, she emerges as a ``national disgrace'' who sipped brandy and cringed when her royal in-laws read of her sexual exploits in the tabloids.

The 37-year-old duchess blames much of her downfall on prying media and unsympathetic royal courtiers.

The Daily Mail published excerpts from Starkie's book, to be released Friday. Fergie's book is due out next week, but choice bits already appeared in Hello!, a celebrity magazine.

So who to believe? And is there still more to tell?

``Friends of the duchess say her book marks the end of the whole sordid process,'' cheered the liberal Guardian newspaper on Wednesday. ``There are no more works to mine from the duchess' tattered palace; the sewers have already been reached.''

Not so, says Harold Brooks-Baker, publishing director of Burke's Peerage. ``This will go on and on and on, and it all whittles down the public's respect for the monarchy.''

In ``My Story,'' Fergie confides she always knew she was an unsuitable daughter-in-law for Queen Elizabeth II.

Plump, ordinary, outspoken, ``I was never cut out for the job, and the harder I pushed, the more things fell apart,'' she writes. ``Even at my dizzy height of popularity, I knew that the clock would strike 12 and I'd be seen for what I was: unworthy, unattractive, unaccomplished. And finally, logically, undone.''

By early 1992, shortly before she and Prince Andrew separated, she was in despair. ``For six years I'd endured the constant scrutiny of the British press and the barely veiled hostility of the Royal Household, the courtiers who run the show. They were killing me by inches; it was time to save my life.'' The couple divorced in May.

She dishes up many delicious morsels from behind the royal portculis.

Picture this: August 1992 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. The children and grandchildren of Queen Elizabeth are ignoring their breakfast as they gawk at newspaper photographs of topless Fergie having her toes sucked by American businessman John Bryan.

``It would be accurate to report that the porridge was getting cold,'' she writes. ``Eyes wide and mouths ajar, the adults were flipping through the Daily Mirror and the rest of the tabloids _ until they saw Andrew and stopped, as it never feels quite right to be gazing at your brother's wife when she hasn't all her clothes on.''

``I was a royal duchess, and I had shown affection to a man not my husband, and had been found out _ end of story. No matter that Andrew and I were separated. I had been exposed for what I truly was. Worthless. Unfit. A national disgrace.''

According to Fergie, no toes were sucked _ she and Bryan were simply ``playing at Cinderella.'' But no matter, she says.

``The queen was furious. I had apologized, of course, but penance and contrition have their limits _ there are some things which cannot be put right.''

Hello! reportedly paid Fergie $160,000 for the serial rights, a small dent in debts now thought to exceed $6.4 million. Tabloids reported that Simon and Schuster was paying her $1.3 million to write the book, but the figure could not be confirmed.

Starkie, a former business partner of Bryan, reportedly got $272,000 for his book, a figure that also could not be confirmed. And he could make a hefty sum on sales: The duchess gave his book a publicity boost by trying to have it suppressed, and then abandoning her court action.

Among Starkie's claims: that Fergie had an affair with American businessman Steve Wyatt while pregnant with her second child and had planned to marry him; that she liked Bryan to call her a ``slut'' and allowed him to slap her; that she once flew to Ireland to see a racehorse she coveted, then arranged to visit a sick man to make it look like a charity trip.