Hot Best Seller

Island Queen

Availability: Ready to download

A remarkable, sweeping historical novel based on the incredible true life story of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, a free woman of color who rose from slavery to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful landowners in the colonial West Indies.  Born into slavery on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat, Doll bought her freedom—and that of her sister and her mother—from her Ir A remarkable, sweeping historical novel based on the incredible true life story of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, a free woman of color who rose from slavery to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful landowners in the colonial West Indies.  Born into slavery on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat, Doll bought her freedom—and that of her sister and her mother—from her Irish planter father and built a legacy of wealth and power as an entrepreneur, merchant, hotelier, and planter that extended from the marketplaces and sugar plantations of Dominica and Barbados to a glittering luxury hotel in Demerara on the South American continent. Vanessa Riley’s novel brings Doll to vivid life as she rises above the harsh realities of slavery and colonialism by working the system and leveraging the competing attentions of the men in her life: a restless shipping merchant, Joseph Thomas; a wealthy planter hiding a secret, John Coseveldt Cells; and a roguish naval captain who will later become King William IV of England. From the bustling port cities of the West Indies to the forbidding drawing rooms of London’s elite, Island Queen is a sweeping epic of an adventurer and a survivor who answered to no one but herself as she rose to power and autonomy against all odds, defying rigid eighteenth-century morality and the oppression of women as well as people of color. It is an unforgettable portrait of a true larger-than-life woman who made her mark on history.


Compare

A remarkable, sweeping historical novel based on the incredible true life story of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, a free woman of color who rose from slavery to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful landowners in the colonial West Indies.  Born into slavery on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat, Doll bought her freedom—and that of her sister and her mother—from her Ir A remarkable, sweeping historical novel based on the incredible true life story of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, a free woman of color who rose from slavery to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful landowners in the colonial West Indies.  Born into slavery on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat, Doll bought her freedom—and that of her sister and her mother—from her Irish planter father and built a legacy of wealth and power as an entrepreneur, merchant, hotelier, and planter that extended from the marketplaces and sugar plantations of Dominica and Barbados to a glittering luxury hotel in Demerara on the South American continent. Vanessa Riley’s novel brings Doll to vivid life as she rises above the harsh realities of slavery and colonialism by working the system and leveraging the competing attentions of the men in her life: a restless shipping merchant, Joseph Thomas; a wealthy planter hiding a secret, John Coseveldt Cells; and a roguish naval captain who will later become King William IV of England. From the bustling port cities of the West Indies to the forbidding drawing rooms of London’s elite, Island Queen is a sweeping epic of an adventurer and a survivor who answered to no one but herself as she rose to power and autonomy against all odds, defying rigid eighteenth-century morality and the oppression of women as well as people of color. It is an unforgettable portrait of a true larger-than-life woman who made her mark on history.

30 review for Island Queen

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Wow, I cannot wait for everyone to have access to this book. It is an epic story based on the real-life of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas. A woman born into slavery who is able to buy her freedom and that of her family. She then builds several businesses and becomes one of the most wealthy women in the Caribbean. It is a story of injustice but also of strength and dreams. It is also about family and the lengths a mother and grandmother will go to so her children and grandchildren will have what she did n Wow, I cannot wait for everyone to have access to this book. It is an epic story based on the real-life of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas. A woman born into slavery who is able to buy her freedom and that of her family. She then builds several businesses and becomes one of the most wealthy women in the Caribbean. It is a story of injustice but also of strength and dreams. It is also about family and the lengths a mother and grandmother will go to so her children and grandchildren will have what she did not. The men in this story are well-meaning but oh so good for nothing. Well, not nothing but really Dorothy was the driving force in her success and Riley makes sure we know it. Riley's research is always superb but here she has really outdone herself and has written one of the most wonderful works of historical fiction that I have ever read. Content Warnings: Rape, incest, racism, sexism. Edit to add that I just posted my video review: https://youtu.be/DrtUbRW-wMM

  2. 5 out of 5

    Olive Fellows (abookolive)

    This is an epic work of historical fiction that imagines the life story of real-life historical figure Dorothy ("Dolly" or "Doll") Kirwan Thomas - a former slave who works hard and makes the right alliances and eventually buys her own way and her family's way out of slavery, going on to become one of the wealthiest women in the Caribbean. Let's start with the main strength of this book: Doll herself. Doll is an incredible character - a strong woman who makes plenty of mistakes over her remarkably This is an epic work of historical fiction that imagines the life story of real-life historical figure Dorothy ("Dolly" or "Doll") Kirwan Thomas - a former slave who works hard and makes the right alliances and eventually buys her own way and her family's way out of slavery, going on to become one of the wealthiest women in the Caribbean. Let's start with the main strength of this book: Doll herself. Doll is an incredible character - a strong woman who makes plenty of mistakes over her remarkably long lifetime, but who has the wisdom to learn from them. A woman who won't let her rights be trampled on. A dedicated mother who kept on fighting for her (ten!) children, even after she was in the grip of postpartum depression after most of their births. She makes for fantastic, empowering reading and the depths of her emotional connections with her family and lovers is where this author truly excelled. That being said, Riley chose to focus the vast majority of this nearly 600 page novel on the relationships that Doll had - whether that be familial, friendly, or romantic. As I said, the skill with which those relationships are written is indeed the highlight of the book, but, especially since Doll Kirwan Thomas was such a force to be reckoned with the in the business world and that savvy is what earned her the all-important fortune that would eventually make her powerful, it's puzzling that more time in the book wasn't spent talking about her businesses. Instead, much time is spent showing Doll hopping from one man to another - often because of interesting, realistic reasons including fear of being hurt again - but I found the book ultimately in need of more variety by the end. And the ending is another sticking point for me. It's very abrupt. All of a sudden the two main points of conflict are resolved and that's that. When we start the book, there are two different timelines - one starting with Doll's early life (we follow her from the age of 5) and another shows us Doll as an elderly woman, paying a visit to a boarding school that she financially supports and which her granddaughter attends. I expected - as the main storyline moved forward in time toward the second - that we'd have an interesting moment of convergence, but that never materialized. I now wonder what the point of that secondary storyline was. But in short, the things this book does well, it does well. I was so attached to these characters and hated saying goodbye to them when the book was over. But I do think more attention needed to be paid to the back half of the book, which sadly lost steam and needed more variety to keep the reader's attention through a 600-page marathon.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Monica **can't read fast enough**

    I was so excited to read Island Queen, but unfortunately I didn't love it like I had expected. I do love a long book if the story is done well, but I think this could have been more tightly edited. The story itself was interesting but there were too many parts that felt like filler and made the story drag a bit. The story felt like it was both too much and too little at once. There are a lot of characters that orbit around Dorothy that are important to her and how and why she is the driven woman I was so excited to read Island Queen, but unfortunately I didn't love it like I had expected. I do love a long book if the story is done well, but I think this could have been more tightly edited. The story itself was interesting but there were too many parts that felt like filler and made the story drag a bit. The story felt like it was both too much and too little at once. There are a lot of characters that orbit around Dorothy that are important to her and how and why she is the driven woman that she is, but there are so many that they don't feel as well developed and impactful as I thought they probably should have felt. There are also important historical events and people that Dorothy is associated with that felt almost wedged into the story. I'm having a hard time expressing exactly what threw me off of this one, and I almost put it down a little more than halfway in, but I'm glad that I pushed through and finished it. Trigger warnings: incest, rape, death of children Where you can find me: •(♥).•*Monica Is Reading*•.(♥)• Twitter: @monicaisreading Instagram: @readermonica Goodreads Group: The Black Bookcase

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    omg this sounds AMAZING

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anna Avian

    Great concept that could have been an exceptional book but should have been more heavily edited in my opinion. The constant jumping of time periods and the vast number of characters made keeping up with the story hard and confusing at times. There was too much focus on Dolly’s romances at the expense of elaborating more on her journey to freedom and success.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jess Owens

    eARC provided from NetGalley and Audio ARC provided from Harper Audio. in exchange for an honest review. I DNF (did not finish) this book at 40%. I tried so hard to get through it but it wasn't working for me. The premise: Based on the true life of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, "a free woman of color who rose from slavery to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful landowners in the colonial West Indies...She rises above the harsh realities of slavery and colonialism by working the system and lev eARC provided from NetGalley and Audio ARC provided from Harper Audio. in exchange for an honest review. I DNF (did not finish) this book at 40%. I tried so hard to get through it but it wasn't working for me. The premise: Based on the true life of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, "a free woman of color who rose from slavery to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful landowners in the colonial West Indies...She rises above the harsh realities of slavery and colonialism by working the system and leveraging the competing attentions of the men in her life: a restless shipping merchant, Joseph Thomas; a wealthy planter hiding a secret, John Coseveldt Cells; and a roguish naval captain who will later become King William IV of England." I was super excited about this book as I love historical fiction. The structure was confusing to me and the writing was jarring, I could never get into a rhythm of reading. I switched to the audiobook, hoping that would help. The narrator has a very distinct accent and even slowing down the audio, I still was so lost and confused. I never knew what time we were in and I didn't know which characters were which. Eventually I gave up which makes me sad but the writing style and narrative structure and the audio narrator did not work for me.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tricia

    In 1761, Irish planters dominate plantation life in Montserrat. Dorothy Kirwan is 5, the daughter of an Irish planter and her slave mother. As she grows older, she faces extraordinary personal challenges that eventually force her to flee Montserrat or be killed by her half-brother. By 1824 Dorothy Kirwan Thomas is a wealthy business woman, known throughout the Caribbean colonies. But her very existence is threatened by the actions of white colonists against free women of color. So she travels to In 1761, Irish planters dominate plantation life in Montserrat. Dorothy Kirwan is 5, the daughter of an Irish planter and her slave mother. As she grows older, she faces extraordinary personal challenges that eventually force her to flee Montserrat or be killed by her half-brother. By 1824 Dorothy Kirwan Thomas is a wealthy business woman, known throughout the Caribbean colonies. But her very existence is threatened by the actions of white colonists against free women of color. So she travels to London to talk to the commanding officer of the colonies herself. Dorothy is an inspiring and intruiging character. Her number one goal was to be financially independent. After fleeing Montserrat, it took her 16 years to earn the manumission fees for herself, her sister, her mother, and her first two daughters. Once she achieved this she was determined to secure her family’s wealth, and over the years ensured her daughters (7 out of her 10 children) were educated and had marriage contracts that protected their wealth. And she tolerated no shit from no man, white or black, lover or business associate. Her pride and sharp tongue were legendary. But she was also human and Riley spends considerable time detailing her many lovers who fathered her children. As much as I admired Dorothy I feel that the book didn’t delve deep enough into the obstacles that she faced in building her businesses in the early stages. There’s also little explanation as to why she was accepted by the white class who used her services. Dorothy also made it her mission to buy the freedom of any relative she found. But once this was achieved, that relative was relegated to the back burner. I would have like there to be more page time given to relationship development with these relatives. Her grandmother Sally just becomes a name after Dorothy buys her freedom. But my biggest pet peeve is with her lovers. Way too much time is given to this in the book. Sadly I got to the point where it just felt overwhelming, and I could think of other aspects that I wanted to learn about rather than her running off to England with a prince! But I digress and that’s just me. Overall Dorothy’s character development is solid, her trials painful, her triumphs evoke pride. It’s worth a read if you’re into historical fiction and/or romance. Thanks to William and Murrow publishing for the e-arc.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jacqui

    I really enjoyed this story. It won’t be released until July but I was lucky enough to win a copy of this phenomenal story. Based on the real life of Mrs. Dolly Kirwan Thomas, a woman born into slavery who worked hard to buy her freedom and build an empire. Highly recommend.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Arlene

    What a life this woman lead. And I did indeed cry, a couple of times.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Brynn.Gaybee

    3.5 stars I think this book could be great for some people. Its subject matter fills a great niche for true success stories of black women. I certainly don't mean to knock the book, I appreciate its goal and I'm certain many readers would enjoy it a lot. I however didn't like reading it. Overall the book really drags and should have been trimmed down a little bit. Much of the plot focuses on Dolly's relationship with various men in her life and this got old quickly as her interactions felt very r 3.5 stars I think this book could be great for some people. Its subject matter fills a great niche for true success stories of black women. I certainly don't mean to knock the book, I appreciate its goal and I'm certain many readers would enjoy it a lot. I however didn't like reading it. Overall the book really drags and should have been trimmed down a little bit. Much of the plot focuses on Dolly's relationship with various men in her life and this got old quickly as her interactions felt very repetitive and dull. It often felt like I was reading a really boring romance novel. A lot of focus was given to the men around Dolly, but I was in the book for Dolly herself. Vital events, like deaths, seemed to pop up and happen very suddenly, these could have used more exposition. I wish more time had been devoted to how she actually built her empire as I feel I didn't quite understand how it all happened. I appreciated her relationship with her family and how her relationship with slavery was portrayed a lot. It was technically well written and many parts were even compelling, but overall it felt repetitive and boring.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Amiee

    This is an amazing story about a phenomenal woman but there’s some issues. There is too much reliance on the romance…I consider this more a romance story and less of historical fiction. Also by introducing all her kids, grandkids etc…it was confusing and didn’t add much to the story.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Lindo-Rice

    Dolly or Dorothy Kirwan Thomas was enslaved living in Montserrat. She was able to purchase her freedom for herself, her mother and sister after many years. Following that huge milestone, Dolly used her smarts and opened her own businesses, amassing a huge amount of wealth. Equally fascinating is Dolly's personal life - the men and her children. Her distinct beauty and wit captured the eyes of many men--some she welcomed and some she didn't. But this all made for a fascinating tale. First and fore Dolly or Dorothy Kirwan Thomas was enslaved living in Montserrat. She was able to purchase her freedom for herself, her mother and sister after many years. Following that huge milestone, Dolly used her smarts and opened her own businesses, amassing a huge amount of wealth. Equally fascinating is Dolly's personal life - the men and her children. Her distinct beauty and wit captured the eyes of many men--some she welcomed and some she didn't. But this all made for a fascinating tale. First and foremost, I commend Vanessa Riley on her research. Her dedication and diligence in this project is evident. Vanessa Riley brought Dolly to life and as I read, I was fascinated at everything this woman had to endure, while admiring her grit and strength. Second, I love that there were women of color who made a name for themselves and triumphed despite the harsh realities of the time. Vanessa tackled each subject matter, not shying away from the ugly but definitely bringing the good. It was a lengthy read and there was a lot covered about Dolly's life but it was told with such skill, that it kept my interest. I had never heard of Dolly before but I admired her grit. Dolly wasn't a perfect heroine but I did always understand--even if I didn't agree--with some of the things she did. Finally, what an amazing amazing cover. Island Queen's cover art is simply gorgeous. But, please open the pages, you'll enjoy. I loved the Author's Note which highlighted the research and other fascinating information. Thank you #Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rhonda McKnight

    Vanessa Riley has grown a following of faithful readers by introducing us to the overlooked presence of free Black people from all over the diaspora who lived in the regency era. It is much appreciated. As a lover of regency, I have devoured every one of her books. With this story, we meet a real person in historical figure Dorothy Kirwan Thomas. Her achievements and courage are remarkable and arguably unique, not because she as fierce and strong, because many of our people, enslaved or free, fi Vanessa Riley has grown a following of faithful readers by introducing us to the overlooked presence of free Black people from all over the diaspora who lived in the regency era. It is much appreciated. As a lover of regency, I have devoured every one of her books. With this story, we meet a real person in historical figure Dorothy Kirwan Thomas. Her achievements and courage are remarkable and arguably unique, not because she as fierce and strong, because many of our people, enslaved or free, fit that description, it was the wealth building that set Dorothy Kirwan Thomas apart. Kirwan, a free woman of color, rose from slavery to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful landowners in the colonial West Indies, yet she has been relegated to a paragraph in “some” history books. In the books, I grew up with, she had no place, not even behind a comma. This was a story that needed to be told. Using expertly peppered, but clearly detailed research, Riley delivers an engaging and cleverly devised fictionalized account of Ms. Thomas’ life from childhood through the later years of her life. We meet Doll (Dorothy) as an enslaved child who eventually bought her freedom and that of sister and mother. She suffered many harsh realities and experienced a great deal of pain as she struggled with the politics and power struggles in a male dominated society. Island Queen took me on a literary journey through beautifully executed, often heart thumping prose that I will not soon forget. I enjoyed the romance, the surprising twist and turns and victorious ending that was Doll’s. Rest in heaven, fair Island Queen. We know who you are now. We see your power and we thank you for fighting for all the little black girls you cared for. They could have been my ancestors.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Robert Fontenot

    I really wanted to love this book. The main character was an amazing woman and her story needs to be heard but this book was very frustrating to read. It seems reductive to frame so much of her narrative around the men in her life. If you remove the sections that consist mostly of a man telling her that they love her, it would shave off a third of the book. The cast of characters is very large and that also meant a good hunk of the tale is taken up with the main character reacting to births and I really wanted to love this book. The main character was an amazing woman and her story needs to be heard but this book was very frustrating to read. It seems reductive to frame so much of her narrative around the men in her life. If you remove the sections that consist mostly of a man telling her that they love her, it would shave off a third of the book. The cast of characters is very large and that also meant a good hunk of the tale is taken up with the main character reacting to births and deaths. I came away from the whole thing feeling like I didn't learn much more than if I had read a genealogy.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Danielle Morrill

    I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. The life of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas is fascinating. This book however was not nearly as interesting as she was. The time line jumps around in confusing ways and there are so many characters that it is pretty impossible to keep them all straight. I think the book could have used a heavier hand during editing too. I got tired of reading some of the same things over and over again. I truly wish I enjoyed the book more.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Julia Kelly

    An absolutely feat of writing and research, Island Queen is told with incredible insight. Dorothy Kirwan Thomas comes alive on the page as a real, complex woman whose story must be read. I can't wait to see what Vanessa Riley does next in historical fiction! An absolutely feat of writing and research, Island Queen is told with incredible insight. Dorothy Kirwan Thomas comes alive on the page as a real, complex woman whose story must be read. I can't wait to see what Vanessa Riley does next in historical fiction!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Quieonna (Melanin Book Lover) Townes

    Dorothy (Dolly) Kirwan Thomas was born into slavery on the island of Montserrat to a slave mother and an Irish slave owning father. Dolly saved the money she earned from huckstering and was able to buy her families freedom from her Irish father. From there Dolly worked to build wealth and power for her family. When I finished this book the first thing I said was “WOW”. There were multiple reasons why I had this reaction 1.) I haven’t read a historical fiction where I learned as much as I learned Dorothy (Dolly) Kirwan Thomas was born into slavery on the island of Montserrat to a slave mother and an Irish slave owning father. Dolly saved the money she earned from huckstering and was able to buy her families freedom from her Irish father. From there Dolly worked to build wealth and power for her family. When I finished this book the first thing I said was “WOW”. There were multiple reasons why I had this reaction 1.) I haven’t read a historical fiction where I learned as much as I learned in this book. It took me forever to read this book because I kept stopping, doing research, and taking notes. 2.) The story of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas was amazing, the woman herself was amazing and Vanessa Riley’s telling ‘of Dorothy’s life was captivating. 3.) I felt so many different emotions while reading this book; anger, sadness, frustration, and pride. After reading the first couple of chapters I was fully immersed in this book. When I bought this book my first thought was this book is too long it’s gonna take me forever to read it, WRONG. I could not put this book down except when I was doing research. From the moment I read about the rebellion in Montserrat in 1761 I knew I was in for an emotional rollercoaster. Dolly went from being this innocent five year old who wanted her pa to stay home and didn’t understand the world around her, to a slave girl who was determined to buy her families freedom, then a free woman with a family that she financially supported as she continued to build her self made wealth. The resilience Dolly had made me proud. Dolly had every obstacle thrown her way from rape to political power used to try to tear her down but she never let it break her. I loved that Vanessa Riley didn’t just write her as this super woman who had all this strength but as a woman with flaws who experienced depression, who was lonely and craved a mans touch, who cried when she needed to, got discouraged when the white men used politics to hold her back, but in spite of all that she used the power of her village to get back up and kept moving to accomplish her dreams. I learned a lot of historical facts while reading this book. First I never heard of most of the islands in this book like Montserrat, Dominica, and Demerara so of course I didn’t know about slavery there. Slavery on the islands was the same while also being different than the US. I also had never heard of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas and while this isn’t US history I for one think this is a part of Black History that we all should know. There was so much untold history in the book that I truly appreciated. The one thing I felt was missing was the relationship building between Dolly and her older sister and Dolly and her grandmother. Dolly paid for their freedom but there wasn’t much said about her relationship that she built with them. The grandmother and older sister were mentioned a couple of times but that was it. I would have liked to of gotten more from those characters but it didn’t take away from the overall story. Dolly was a women with needs, see had eleven kids and more than a couple baby daddies. I didn’t really think less of Dolly’s story because of that. To me it’s no different than the women of today who have multiple partners only difference is there is birth control now so women don’t always end up with as many kids and baby daddies like back in the day. I had no problem with Dolly having several lovers especially since they all loved them some Dolly. This was a great story, I appreciate Vanessa Riley for giving us this fictional telling of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas’ life with so many historical facts. This is a long book but it spans from 1761 to 1824 during Dolly’s prime so the additional pages were necessary to truly capture Dorothy Kirwan Thomas’ story.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Logan Reads

    I said I'd finish it in August, and I did! But sadly, I won't be giving it as high a rating as I originally thought because of the slow rough patch at the halfway point and the decision made at the end that neither Riley or Dolly fully address. Island Queen started out strong, though it is more of a romance than I was expecting. From Riley's Author's Note, I take it that was largely unavoidable with the amount of relationships and children the real Dolly had. Either way, I was soon fatigued with I said I'd finish it in August, and I did! But sadly, I won't be giving it as high a rating as I originally thought because of the slow rough patch at the halfway point and the decision made at the end that neither Riley or Dolly fully address. Island Queen started out strong, though it is more of a romance than I was expecting. From Riley's Author's Note, I take it that was largely unavoidable with the amount of relationships and children the real Dolly had. Either way, I was soon fatigued with the seemingly endless parade of white male suitors. This book hit a real rough patch for me when (view spoiler)[Dolly left her family for 6 months to sail with Prince William (hide spoiler)] and this wouldn't have been that boring to me if Riley hadn't made the decision to jump in time to the year 1824 where I know she ultimately ends up as Dorthy Kirwan Thomas. So I found this little trip to be pretty pointless since it didn't last. My favorite of Dolly's suitors and partners was Joseph Thomas since he is the only one who helped her achieve freedom before being romantically involved with her. Her own father didn't free her, and Cells didn't free her, even when it was well within their power to do so. How resentment doesn't overgrow love in those circumstances -- I will never know. Also, another reason Thomas is the best is because he beats Dolly's racist rapist of a brother unconscious. And on the topic of Cells, Dolly's first unofficial marriage and the consenting father of some of her brood-- their relationship is the reason I could not give this higher than 3 stars. Cells starts out as her friend, knows her as a child even before they became more, and at the beginning I liked their relationship. That was until this ragamuffin, rat bastard of a man (view spoiler)[ literally stole Dolly's passing baby to raise as white across the sea (hide spoiler)] . I was done with the man after that, and am still horrified and saddened that the feeling was not mutual for Dolly. I can understand forgiveness, but can reconcile a woman so loving of her children, still being in love with the man who (view spoiler)[stole one from her, and weaponized his whiteness and gender against her (hide spoiler)] , knowing there was absolutely nothing she could do about it. Despite that, Dolly rekindles her relationship with this scrub two times, and Riley writes their reunion and reconciliation as a happy ending without fully explaining Dolly's feelings towards the matter or why she still loves him at all. I lose a great deal of respect for her as a woman because of this decision, and was extremely disappointed Riley's author's note, did not offer any more information on the decision. Which sadly tells me she sees it as a non-issue.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Joy Matteson

    I could immediately tell I was in for a wild ride with this one. The best historical fiction is based on a lot of in-depth research, but also author passion for their subject matter to keep it being dry as dishwater. Dorothy Kirwan Thomas was a real person you can Wiki, and her life does seem to be unbelievably filled with adventure, danger, and courage. Born a slave to Betty and a slave owner on the island of Demerara, a Dutch colony of Guyana, Dorothy is determined to make something of her lif I could immediately tell I was in for a wild ride with this one. The best historical fiction is based on a lot of in-depth research, but also author passion for their subject matter to keep it being dry as dishwater. Dorothy Kirwan Thomas was a real person you can Wiki, and her life does seem to be unbelievably filled with adventure, danger, and courage. Born a slave to Betty and a slave owner on the island of Demerara, a Dutch colony of Guyana, Dorothy is determined to make something of her life by making herself an entrepreneur in the mid 18th century. This seemed unheard of for ANY woman in that era, but especially for a Black woman born into slavery. You can't but admire how Dorothy lived her life--the wealth she acquired, the 10 children and multiple lovers she obtained; but Riley's telling doesn't make her into a saint or a sinner--no mythological creature here. It did strain belief a few times, but we know that truth is often stranger than fiction. This was a very hard one to put down. I found myself thinking about Dorothy's life and her struggles with her adult children often, wanting to go back to the novel. I appreciate this author bringing this Black heroine to life--it was a beautiful novel. Highly recommended.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nae

    Fantastic story. The timeline jumped around a bit which made it a little difficult to follow, that's the only reason it's 4 stars instead of 5. Loved the strength and vulnerability of the MC where she made the best out of what life handed her. I doubt I could have done the same. A+ Fantastic story. The timeline jumped around a bit which made it a little difficult to follow, that's the only reason it's 4 stars instead of 5. Loved the strength and vulnerability of the MC where she made the best out of what life handed her. I doubt I could have done the same. A+

  21. 5 out of 5

    Erin Tanner

    What An Amazing Novel! This was an enjoyable novel from start to finish. From the descriptive language of life in those times to the tumultuous trials and tribulations that the heroine endured. It is evident that the author put a lot of time and effort into researching the life and times of Dolly Kirwan Thomas. She was a remarkable woman who lived a remarkable life. All that she endured would have broken a lesser woman, but somehow she found the strength to persevere. The way the author was able What An Amazing Novel! This was an enjoyable novel from start to finish. From the descriptive language of life in those times to the tumultuous trials and tribulations that the heroine endured. It is evident that the author put a lot of time and effort into researching the life and times of Dolly Kirwan Thomas. She was a remarkable woman who lived a remarkable life. All that she endured would have broken a lesser woman, but somehow she found the strength to persevere. The way the author was able to flesh out each character with distinct personalities and make each of them feel as if we knew someone like each of them in our lives was amazing. With each chapter I found myself wanting to see Dolly overcome each obstacle and excited to read what happened next. I loved how Dr. Riley took the time at the end of this phenomenal novel to give background on each character as well as the full bibliography where she was able to pull the information to create this amazing novel. I was sad when the novel finally ended, but I felt so empowered at the same time. If a woman like Dorothy Kirwan Thomas can rise above the substantial challenges she faced during her life, then it is absolutely possible for women to truly do anything. This was a five star novel in every sense of the word.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Barten

    Wow! Dolly's story is amazing and I'm so glad to now know it! I learned so mucch in this book and really enjoyed it. With that said this book is too long. Idk how many times I read about details that didn't matter or Riley would mention a person for one paragraph that was never brought up again. I also wanted to know more about her struggles to get her freedom and less about the men in her life. I did like that Riley says more than once that men are her weakness. It made it a little less annoyin Wow! Dolly's story is amazing and I'm so glad to now know it! I learned so mucch in this book and really enjoyed it. With that said this book is too long. Idk how many times I read about details that didn't matter or Riley would mention a person for one paragraph that was never brought up again. I also wanted to know more about her struggles to get her freedom and less about the men in her life. I did like that Riley says more than once that men are her weakness. It made it a little less annoying. Thank you to netgalley for giving me this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Venessia

    As much as I wanted to love this book, it wasn't one of my favorite reads of 2021. As much as I wanted to love this book, it wasn't one of my favorite reads of 2021.

  24. 5 out of 5

    daphnereads

    This was a stunning book, one of the best historical fictions I have ever read. You can tell the Vanessa Riley put a lot of research and love into telling us about Dorothy's life, everything was incredibly detailed and I was hooked from the beginning. The characters dreams and motives were clear, and you are invested in Dorothy's story the whole time. This is about a woman who had to work her way to success, she had to deal with many hardships and you are rooting for her throughout the book. Rile This was a stunning book, one of the best historical fictions I have ever read. You can tell the Vanessa Riley put a lot of research and love into telling us about Dorothy's life, everything was incredibly detailed and I was hooked from the beginning. The characters dreams and motives were clear, and you are invested in Dorothy's story the whole time. This is about a woman who had to work her way to success, she had to deal with many hardships and you are rooting for her throughout the book. Riley also doesn't sugarcoat the disgusting things that Dorothy had to go through, you learn to understand what an amazing woman she was, and I thank Riley for being the one to share this story with the world. One thing I will say is that at times this story was hard to follow. There are a lot of time skips and because there were so many specifics, I had to reread some passages and go back a few pages to remind myself about what happened. Regardless, I still really enjoyed this novel, I can't wait for everyone to read this!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Aletha Pagett

    Island Queen, a novel based upon a real woman, is a stunning story of survival, love, and accomplishment. The characters jump into your heart and you are taken back in time to experience their amazing lives. This was received from Goodreads.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kaia Alderson

    Island Queen is what you would get if you were to drop Olivia Pope and all the men who lusted after her into the 18th Century Caribbean. Dorothy “Dolly” Kirwan Thomas was not born into an easy life but she did “handle” every twist and turn that was thrown her way. With prose that reads like poetry, Vanessa Riley expertly steers the reader through Dolly’s heartbreaking lows all the way into her triumphant emergence as the richest free woman of color in the islands. Passionate, headstrong, and loy Island Queen is what you would get if you were to drop Olivia Pope and all the men who lusted after her into the 18th Century Caribbean. Dorothy “Dolly” Kirwan Thomas was not born into an easy life but she did “handle” every twist and turn that was thrown her way. With prose that reads like poetry, Vanessa Riley expertly steers the reader through Dolly’s heartbreaking lows all the way into her triumphant emergence as the richest free woman of color in the islands. Passionate, headstrong, and loyal, Riley’s version of the real-life Dorothy Kirwan Thomas legend will make readers fall in love this overlooked “hidden” queen.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Breanne Mc Ivor

    Island Queen is a #ReadCaribbean historical novel that tells the true story of Dorothy Kirwan. Dorothy is born into slavery in Montserrat but she buys her freedom from her Irish planter father before eventually freeing other family members too. Dorothy finds a way to work the systems of slavery and colonialism as she becomes one of the Caribbean's most wealthy and powerful entrepreneurs and eventually a planter herself. 📖 Dorothy bewitches white men, including the kind shipping merchant Joseph Tho Island Queen is a #ReadCaribbean historical novel that tells the true story of Dorothy Kirwan. Dorothy is born into slavery in Montserrat but she buys her freedom from her Irish planter father before eventually freeing other family members too. Dorothy finds a way to work the systems of slavery and colonialism as she becomes one of the Caribbean's most wealthy and powerful entrepreneurs and eventually a planter herself. 📖 Dorothy bewitches white men, including the kind shipping merchant Joseph Thomas, the ambitious and calculating John Coseveldt Cells (who has a deep secret) and a handsome naval captain who turns out to be a Prince of England. 📖 I found this book to be a quick, engaging read despite the 557 pages and it's important that the true success stories of women of colour are told. Especially women who succeeded against such grievous odds. 📖 However, I would have loved to read more about *how* Dorothy established her businesses and the challenges she faced. Especially in her early days of entrepreneurship, success seems to come relatively easy. 📖 Maybe I am just a cynic, but I also found that she was too readily accepted by white men, who not only romanced her but wanted to marry her. Her white half-brother Nicholas is truly vile but he is the exception among the white men she meets. I wonder whether white men at the time would have been so magnanimous and kind to a dark-skinned mulatto woman. But maybe that says more about me as a reader than it does about the text. I have read many more books where there are Marlon James or Sara Collins style masters, cruel and capricious, where even 'kindness' is an indulgence that can be withdrawn at any moment. 📖 This book shows a different face of Caribbean history and challenges the dominant narrative of plantation society, showing that inter-racial love and a coloured woman's ambition were still possible in such a twisted world.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Pj Ausdenmore

    I just turned the final page of Island Queen. I'm not sure I have words to do it justice. But Vanessa Riley did. What she has created is nothing short of a masterpiece. This impeccably-researched recreation of an extraordinary life immersed me into Dolly's world, from the terror and bloodshed of a young slave child's first rebellion, to the ninth decade of a life lived to the fullest. Riley held nothing back, giving readers a front-row seat to the uncensored lows and highs of this fascinating an I just turned the final page of Island Queen. I'm not sure I have words to do it justice. But Vanessa Riley did. What she has created is nothing short of a masterpiece. This impeccably-researched recreation of an extraordinary life immersed me into Dolly's world, from the terror and bloodshed of a young slave child's first rebellion, to the ninth decade of a life lived to the fullest. Riley held nothing back, giving readers a front-row seat to the uncensored lows and highs of this fascinating and complicated woman's life. By the end of the book, I didn't only know about Doll. I *knew* her. Riley brought her to life, with all her flaws, strengths, fears, fierceness, and vulnerability. She may not have secured page space in our history books but I would wager that no one who reads Island Queen will ever forget Dorothy Kirwan Thomas. I know I won't. This is a long book - almost 600 pages - but the narrative never lost me. I was fully engaged from beginning to end. Not a single sentence or character was extraneous. Each carefully considered word was necessary to do this story justice. Be sure to also read the Author's Notes at the end of the book as they are filled with fascinating facts about Riley's research as well as more information about Dolly's children, grandchildren, and other real-life characters in the book. Island Queen is one of the best books I've read in 2021. It has my highest recommendation. CW: Readers should be aware that some parts of the book involving rape, incest, death, and slavery may be difficult to read but, in my opinion, are necessary to understand the full scope of Dolly's life. *ARC received for fair and unbiased review

  29. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆ Thank you to NetGalley and WIlliam Morrow & Custom House for allowing me to read this ARC! Content Warning: death, murder, violence, slavery, racism, misogyny, rape, incest. Born in the mid-1700s, the daughter of a plantation owner and an enslaved woman, Dolly Thomas is exposed to the horrors of slavery throughout her childhood. Determined, ambitious, and full of charm, Dolly manages to pay for not only her own freedom, but the freedom of her mother and sister -- and ends up creating a life f ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆ Thank you to NetGalley and WIlliam Morrow & Custom House for allowing me to read this ARC! Content Warning: death, murder, violence, slavery, racism, misogyny, rape, incest. Born in the mid-1700s, the daughter of a plantation owner and an enslaved woman, Dolly Thomas is exposed to the horrors of slavery throughout her childhood. Determined, ambitious, and full of charm, Dolly manages to pay for not only her own freedom, but the freedom of her mother and sister -- and ends up creating a life for them all that no one thinks possible for a woman of color in her time. Reading the premise for this book was so exciting that I knew I had to request it. Not only do I love historical fiction, but I thought that it was so refreshing to see a book written by a black woman about an amazing black woman. Although Riley's writing style didn't immediately catch my attention, her weaving of the story certainly did. While much of the content in this book is extremely difficult to read, it's a necessary read, something that unveils the atrocity of slavery while also uplifting the voices of the enslaved. Dolly is the star of this beautiful novel, and I cannot begin to even tell you how much she makes this worth reading. Riley's masterful characters, who are vividly, wonderfully captured, feel as real as if you are sitting in the room with them. It seems as if Dolly has taken you into her confidence, and is whispering into your ear with her snappish wit and her endless supply of magnetism. The tale of her life, her hardships, her wins and losses, is so captivating that at the end, I nearly found myself in tears. I truly cannot recommend this highly enough. Riley is a prolific writer of historical fiction and romance, and although I hadn't previously heard of her, I will certainly be looking into reading more of her books in the future.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Minglu Jiang

    Island Queen had a hard job to do. Not only is Dorothy Kirwan Thomas's story such an extraordinary one, one that must be so hard to execute... this book was easily my most anticipated release of 2021. It did not disappoint. Not in the least. When I first started reading Island Queen, I was in a huge reading slump (I think I still might be, like, a moment ago I was trying to get into another book but I just couldn't). But a few pages of this book and I wanted to do nothing but read. It's just such Island Queen had a hard job to do. Not only is Dorothy Kirwan Thomas's story such an extraordinary one, one that must be so hard to execute... this book was easily my most anticipated release of 2021. It did not disappoint. Not in the least. When I first started reading Island Queen, I was in a huge reading slump (I think I still might be, like, a moment ago I was trying to get into another book but I just couldn't). But a few pages of this book and I wanted to do nothing but read. It's just such a riveting story, with writing that evokes so much emotion. I couldn't put it down.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...