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  • Island Queen

  • A Novel
  • Written by: Vanessa Riley
  • Narrated by: Adjoa Andoh
  • Length: 21 hrs and 16 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)

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Island Queen

Written by: Vanessa Riley
Narrated by: Adjoa Andoh
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Publisher's Summary

“Richly detailed, vividly depicted, and sweeping in scope, Island Queen is historical fiction at its absolute finest. A stunning must-read!” (Chanel Cleeton, New York Times best-selling author of The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba)

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 18th-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.

Supplemental enhancement PDF accompanies the audiobook.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2021 Vanessa Riley (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

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What listeners say about Island Queen

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  • PJMcGhee
  • 2021-07-11

BRILLIANT

I am a huge Vanessa Riley fan. Her romance novels are among my favorites. But Dr. Vanessa Riley has outdone herself with ISLAND QUEEN. This factual and engaging story of Dorothy (Dolly) Kerwin Thomas explores love, family, pain, resilience, strength, and ambition. It also includes powerful romantic elements that enhance the readers' enjoyment of Dorothy's story. NO SPOILERS. Dolly loves her family and will do whatever it takes to free family members from chattel slavery, Also, she is dedicated to encouraging and helping younger family members reach lofty goals. PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO DOLLY'S CHILDHOOD.

In the story, Dolly says "Never knew a moment made better standing still. Never knew an hour made perfect by silence." That is Dolly. She begins her career as an entrepreneur at an early age and goes on to become the wealthiest woman in the West Indies at a time (18th and 19th centuries) when women regularly suffered sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. Dorothy is helped along in her quest for success by her mother, sister, and three important men in her life. She is never without ideas and is active with other wealthy women of color who successfully navigate and overcome misogynistic and racist practices designed to steal their power. The women increase their power and wealth through camaraderie and civic/political literacy and engagement.

Dolly is her sister Kitty's champion. Theirs is a symbiotic relationship. Dolly steps into Kitty's stunted emotional world and unknowingly becomes empowered by Kitty's practical and idealistic suggestions and ideas. Dolly takes what she needs from men in her life, learning from each of them and applying this knowledge to further her personal and professional growth.

Dolly is brave, but her impulsive nature puts her in positions that force her to use her intelligence and the art of persuasion to reach safer spaces. The reader is pulled into the story throughout the work, but four+ difficult situations increase Dolly's growth by forcing her to accept reality. These scenes left me shaking my head. Unbelievable. It seemed that I had stepped into Dolly and company's world.

Most readers have favorite characters. Mine were Kitty and Thomas. I think after reading Dolly's story, you will understand why. Pay attention to the beginning of the story. Hang on to every word. The significance of thoughts, experiences, and advice is woven through the entire story of this exceptional woman.

The Author's Note provides readers with a greater understanding of topics such as race, class, gender, culture, economics, and "hidden histories." Surely, this will be an award-winning novel and should be used in post-secondary courses in Women, Africana, Political, Economic, Caribbean, and British history and studies. I am glad to be a part of Dorothy Kerwin Thomas's introduction to the world of powerful fiction.

PASS THE WORD. Dr. Vanessa Riley has written her greatest work.

36 people found this helpful

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  • Montana
  • 2021-08-27

Give Adjoa Andoh an Oscar!

Holy moly, Andoh delivers an absolutely amazing performance reading this story. She is so talented to not only capture the English, Irish and Island accents but also the Creole and mixed ones too. That takes talent. She truly made this book for me, I extremely suggest listening vs just reading it!

As for the actual story, I enjoyed it. Was it one of my favs this year? No, much like The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, novels this large wax and wane, have valleys and peaks. But the journey was still a good time. I think this would make a great tv series like Downton Abbey. So many characters and plot lines, it was definitely a challenge to finish, but I am
glad I did.

27 people found this helpful

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  • Bianca Morton
  • 2021-07-16

Amazing

Being a black woman from the West Indies this book was amazing. This book took me through so many emotions. I felt pain, anger, hope, joy and sadness. Very well read. Her triumphs and tribulations shows that woman can overcome anything.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Cynthia B.
  • 2021-12-14

An epic sweep of a novel

Through the intensely personal experience and perspective of its heroine (from little girl to matriarch), Island Queen recreates the devastating grip of colonialism on the people of the West Indies. It captures her struggle to purchase freedom for herself and her family members, ultimately and over generations, building an empire for herself and her descendants and a pathway to success for other former slaves.

Riley is a master storyteller: people, places, events, characterized by the full range of human emotions, spring vividly to life. We hear the dialects, feel the intense humidity, smell the sweat of fear or the pungent sweetness of island flora, the damp earth or the salty sea. We move within the huts, palace halls—or eventually the beautiful homes and hotels built by the heroine. And we must always confront the reality that humans are complex and, as such, no character—not even the heroine or some slave owners—is entirely without flaws or without merits.

This is a deliciously long listen, worth every minute!

17 people found this helpful

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  • Valerie D. Pegram
  • 2021-07-22

Excellent!!

I had never heard of this ingenious lady before. Great historical account of her life!! Would have loved to learn more about how long she lived, her life up to the end. But excellent story!!

14 people found this helpful

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  • Dena
  • 2021-08-07

A saga...

I loved this book. If there was a drawback it was that it was so long as to be hard to get finished. Still, the story was poignant and the narration (Adjoa Andoh) was admirable. Naturally when you give one voice so many voices to do there will be disappointments but when she did the voice of Dorothy (Dolly) she did it with conviction and insight and sympathy. I'm a little skeptical that a single person in her circumstances could have amassed that kind of fortune, but then I wasn't there. It is a saga...stay with it.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Delores
  • 2021-11-19

A Strong Determined Women

Very good, took a while to finish. Too many children and circumstances. Loved the narrative,

9 people found this helpful

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  • Nicole lester
  • 2021-10-24

Such an amazing story

While I was excited to listen to this novel, I didn’t know how much of a treat it would be. Vanessa Riley gave such depth and layers to a woman who could’ve been lost in history. The writing was superb and the narration was astounding. Adjoa Andoh gave everything to every character. She was engaging and I could imagine each character vividly. It was the perfect pairing.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Donna Hill
  • 2021-07-29

Impeccable. Unforgettable

Vanessa Riley has crafted a masterpiece filled with pain, power, beauty and hope! Bravo! Bravo!

8 people found this helpful

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  • Laurie
  • 2021-09-25

Loved it!

Wonderful presentation. excellent character development and historical facts. I enjoy reading about life in 1700's

7 people found this helpful