I have enjoyed Vanessa Riley’s Regency romances for years—the Advertisements for Love series is my particular favorite—so I knew this book would be well-researched, richly detailed, and a thoroughly absorbing experience for readers. But because this was a story about an historical figure, I did not expect to be so completely swept up emotionally. Island Queen reminded of Daniel Defoe’s classic Moll Flanders but Defoe’s character Moll was white, she was a servant, not a slave, and she was fictional. Dorothy Kirwan Thomas was a real person who lived and loved and achieved. She not only survived. She dominated. She triumphed. But Vanessa Riley’s task of putting that amazing life on the page was a daunting one. Dorothy Thomas left no diary. So, like a forensic anthropologist, Riley used her creative talent to reconstruct the literary flesh—the thoughts, the emotions, the dialogue—of Dorothy Thomas. And although the Island Queen was beautiful, Riley did not leave out the ugly bits—the slavery, the inhumanity, the misogyny, even Dorothy’s failings. There were two moments in this novel when I started to cry and thought I would never stop. Some of the characters are etched on my heart. I read along while I listened to the audio book narrated by the incomparable Adjoa Andoh (HonFRS). If you watched the Bridgerton series you would recognize her voice instantly as she played Lady Danbury. And because she is such an amazing narrator, the emotional quality of the story was only intensified. The best news of all, Island Queen has been optioned for a television adaptation starring Adjoa Andoh. #23for23

Adjoa Andoh as Lady Danbury in Bridgerton

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