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Dominoes

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Member Reviews

Thank you to Net Galley and Random House for this ARC in exchange for my honest review. This novel brings up a new story line for me - a mixed-race British woman finds out that her fiance's ancestors may have enslaved her ancestors just a few days before her wedding. The story begins 29 days before Layla's wedding. She is Black, Jamaican on her mother's side and white on her father's, living in London and her fiance Andy is Scottish and they both have the last name MacKinnon. Sera, Layla's best friend, isn't so sure about it and Layla marrying a white man. There are tensions between Layla and Sera and Sera prompts a friend to do family research. Then the shocking news surfaces that it is extremely likely that Andy's ancestors enslaved Layla's and this is what has lead Andy's family to the wealth that they now enjoy. This then takes her to Jamaica to meet family for the first time. After all this information, Layla needs to decide in a very short time period will she marry this man and the history she knows or can she find a way to go forward with Andy. Although the reading felt long to get to the point, this novel brought up interesting issues and although white families now may have different views on race, how do we process the generational wealth or lack thereof due to the choices of ancestors. I would highly recommend this for a book club as interesting discussions are sure to come out of it.

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Dominoes was a really unique debut novel that explores complicated themes of race, identity, and the relationships that connect us. I was really intrigued about the conflict created by the author for our main character Layla and to see how her relationships changed throughout the novel with her fiancé and best friend. As a reader, I had very complicated feelings towards Layla’s best friend Sera, understanding her concerns came from a good place, but also frustrated with how she went about raising those concerns. I thought the author did a great job of centering Layla though and incorporating her familial background as she navigated this difficult situation. There were certainly parts where I was frustrated with characters, but I also believe that was the intention of the author to create imperfect characters. Overall I would definitely recommend this one!

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I tried my best i really did but this just did not spark my attention like i thought it would. The slave owning ancestry part doesn’t even happen until well into 30-40% of the book. Idk if this was a more character driven book and that’s why, but unfortunately the premise was great but the execution i didn’t like.

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Dominoes was a great debut novel. The premise is original and it is a book you want to discuss with others. Layla, a British-Jamaican woman living in London, is quickly approaching her wedding date to Andy when her best friend drops a heavy weight onto her heart - her fiancé's ancestors may have enslaved her own ancestors. The thought is one that digs deep into Layla's mind and will not let up until she finds out more. The process is painful and the answers she does find aren't the most clear or the easiest to deal with - but the journey that Layla takes throughout the book is well worth the read. Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this novel.

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This looks like a romance from the cover to the initial description. Underlying all of it is a secret that involves long ago deeds of ancestors. When Sera drags Layla to a party, Layla is determined to stay for a short while and then head home for a late night dinner and tv binge. Instead she meets Andy and begins a love story. When Sera seems apathetic about their relationship, Layla thinks it is simply jealousy. This light hearted beginning gets more and more complicated. Will Layla and Andy make it to altar? Or will their families' secrets lead to heartbreak.

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This was a pretty solid debut novel. I found it very thought provoking with how it addresses how slavery plays into modern day relationships. I had never really thought about the fact that some interracial marriages could have ties back to slavery and how that impacts the couple, as well as their ancestors.

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What a wonderful debut! The story centers around Layla, who is engaged to Andy. Something unique about them is that they both have the same last name. Layla’s BFF, Sera, watches a documentary which suggests that Andy’s family enslaved Layla’s.

This story is very unique and it brought up a roller-coaster of emotions.

If going into a deep-dive about family histories while dealing with the consequences in the present is your thing, read this!

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Dominoes started off really strong for me and I was intrigued by the premise. The first interaction between Layla and the love interest was really good. The best friend was introduced to us early but I never felt that they were truly best friends or never saw the friends on the “good side” so it was hard for me to feel sympathy for Sera. First she was mad about something at work, blaming her bestie for whatever reason and then it was about the love interest. In other words, she was mad about something the entire book. I was really annoyed by her the entire time. She just didn’t act like a best friend and I hated the way her character development was written. As far as Layla and and Fiance goes: I never felt a deep connection either so I wasn’t necessarily rooting for them. The thing that intrigued me the most was the history but then it was just so much that it dragged and dragged and the plot got away from me. I really had to push through to finish even though it was a short read!

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher. I really enjoyed this for the unique plot and realistic characters.

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This started off slow for me. Two friends, co-workers, who seemed to be at outs. One getting married soon and the other losing out on a promotion they were hoping to get. I almost put the book aside as it did not seem to be the story I was expecting. I stuck with it, though. It was eye opening — and made me think. This would be good reading for a book club. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the digital ARC. This review is my own.

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This novel is about how historic racism and systems of slavery can cause hurt, divisions and impossible choices among people still today. Phoebe McIntosh does a beautiful job depicting this in what is, in essence, a romance novel imbued in history with a side of self discovery.

The plot is centered upon a fascinating, important and shameful piece of British history that I hadn’t known anything about before - basically reverse reparations - and traces how these inequities and injustices are steeped into its social and economic fabric. The fallout, among people who genuinely love each other, reflects how people of different backgrounds respond to that history when their core identities and relationships hang in the balance.

A powerful illustration of how structural, historic, interpersonal and internalized racism pervade our cultures and continue to privilege the privileged and harm those most impacted by racism and slavery. And also of how acts of courage and kindness, big and small, really matter. All of that makes this my favorite kind of romance novel! Substantive, with conflict that is complex and not contrived, I felt for the characters and learned something along the way.

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Layla is a light skinned Londoner whose mother is Jamaican and whose father is black. Her best friend and grandfather are also black, but Layla’s boyfriends have almost exclusively been white. When she gets serious about Andy McKinnon, her best friend’s tolerance of the situation, especially in the year of the George Floyd’s death, disappears. Since Andy and Layla have the same last name, and since Andy’s ancestors are proud Scots, Sera, the best friend, posits that Andy’s ancestors actually owned Layla’s. That is enough for Sera to render Andy and Layla forbidden to marry. But Andy and Layla love each other.
Layla is not immune to the Sera’s concern. The book lets the reader follow both the research and logic that these characters must go through to determine what is right. Sera is consumed by anger, fueled by continued persecution and discrimination still prevalent against black people. Layla has the guilt of one who “passes” and yet, she doesn’t want to be angry. “’
“Action is more important than anger,” Layla discovers, but what action is right for her?
Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for this thought provoking and interesting read. Dominoes was released on March 12, 2024.

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Dominoes by Phoebe McIntosh is the story of Layla and Andy who are on the cusp of their wedding when Layla learns that it may be that Andy's family enslaved members of her family in previous generations. The story is engaging as the reader watches Layla struggle with questions of identity, judgment, and who gets to decide how she should feel and what she should do. The answers are not easy and her relationship with her best friend Sera raises the stakes for whichever choice Layla makes.

I enjoyed this book and think it could provide some interesting discussions for book clubs. 4.5 stars rounding up to 5.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance copy of Dominoes in exchange for an honest review. Dominoes is available now.

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DOMINOES
Phoebe McIntosh

Layla must decide. It could cost her the man of her dreams.

Layla loves Andy. There’s something special about him and she can’t wait to marry him.

There’s just one problem…his ancestors may have owned her ancestors. And it doesn’t mean as much to Layla as it would to her friends and family, who are deeply rooted in her life.

After being confronted with this point of contention Layla must decide if she cares, if it matters, and if she will investigate its validity. We follow along as she makes each decision and solidifies her future.

Invisibility is discussed, marriage in these current times is evaluated and the reality of Layla and Andy’s history is explored. Parts of the novel worked for me while other parts did not. I feel like it raised interesting but easily answerable questions.

Exploring the topic from one aspect was interesting, however, I wished we could’ve had some alternating perspectives to deepen the conversation. I wish we could’ve heard from Andy a little more. And a friend with a different opinion could’ve gone a long way.

I’m curious as to what Phoebe McIntosh writes next. If these topics sound interesting to you, you should check out DOMINOES. Out Now!

Thanks to Netgalley, Random House Publishing Group - Random House | Random House Trade Paperbacks, and Penguin Random House Audio for the advanced copies!

DOMINOES…⭐⭐⭐

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Layla and Andy are two months away from their wedding when Layla makes a shocking discovery about Andy’s ancestors. This book had such an interesting premise and was very well written with fleshed out characters but it did drag in some parts for me.

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This was a heavy read. I had limited knowledge of Scotland's ties to Jamaica and slavery, and I learned a lot in this book. From an emotional standpoint, there was a lot to unpack here. I can't imagine living through a situation like this or what decision I might make about marrying a man whose ancestors were my family's slaveowners. Layla, our MC, was a great character. She worked through so many emotions throughout the story. It was hard to watch her work through the situation and the way that her best friend treated her throughout the book was very frustrating. I think she found allies in unexpected places, but it wasn't always an easy process. I'm glad she found her roots, even if this was such a painful way to do so. It's a beautiful, heartbreaking book, and I highly recommend it.


A huge thank you to the author and the publisher for providing an e-ARC via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion regarding the book.

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This was a moving, tough, thought-provoking read. I knew almost nothing of Scotland and their dark past with Jamaica and slavery. I was shocked and moved to read it and learn. I love that this story opened my eyes.

And I really liked the main character, Layla. She was an amazing friend, a good teacher, and I appreciated how much she loved and cared for her family. She's faced with an earth shattering revelation. The man she met and was swept off her feet, the man she's agreed to marry - he may have been from the same family that enslaved her ancestors. For Layla, wondering about her family's history and experiences isn't something she's faced but this possible tie to her fiancé makes her realize she needs to explore this side of her heritage.

It's such a surprising and touching story. Layla goes through every emotion and, with the audiobook, the narrator did an amazing job of pulling me right along with Layla. I felt her sadness and her frustration at having to wonder. I felt her bewilderment at her best friend. I loved her trip to meet her family and see Jamaica. I appreciated her tough decisions. It's an amazing story, one I'm really glad I read. I highly recommend it, especially the audiobook.

A huge thank you to the author and publisher for providing an e-ARC via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion regarding the book.

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I was immediately intrigued by the premise of this story -- a man and a woman, one black and one white, meet at a party and fall in love. They have the same last name, which the main character thinks is quirky and cute. Soon, she discovers that it's because her family had been owned by her fiancee's family as slaves. While I really enjoyed the concept, and it was fascinating to see how what we think of as "distant history" can be so present and immediate. My issue with the book, over all, was the character development. The finance is hardly in it at all, which is fine considering the story is more about the MC personal growth, but he's like a stick figure. The rest of the characters are slightly better, but still felt a bit flat.

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Best read of 2024! The story of Layla, Andy and Sera is one that will keep you reading long into the night. After meeting at a party and realizing they have the same name but are NOT related, Layla and Andy quickly fall for each other. Layla's friend Sera is less than thrilled with the prospect of Layla dating much less marrying a white man. When Sera encourages Layla to research her heritage, it sends her on a journey she never expected. Learning that Andy's ancestors may have owned hers, Layla is torn between the love of her life and what she sees as her duty to honor her family.
As a white woman, reading this book gave me entirely new perspective on how layered and nuanced Black history actually is. Honestly, I had to check my own biases on more than one occasion while reading. I was fully invested in the whole book and think I am better for reading it. Having said that, it is important to note that even though the subject matter is an important one, the book itself is very, very good. The pages are filled with so much love shown in so many ways. Most of the characters are very likable and relatable. It really is the whole package - an absolutely fantastic book that I will be recommending over and over again. 5+ stars!

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Layla McKinnon has always thought it was just a funny quirk that she and her fiancé, Andy, have the same last name — she's biracial and grew up in North London, he's from an upper-middleclass family with deep Scottish roots. But when she sees a documentary just a few weeks before their wedding day, Layla discovers that Andy's ancestors may have enslaved her ancestors. The revelation sends Layla into a tailspin, causing her to re-evaluate everything from her lack of genealogical knowledge to her upcoming nuptials.

The premise of this book set it up to potentially veer into sappy cheese or dark and gritty (or, if the author really mishandled it, way too light and quirky). Instead, McIntosh walked that very fine line, and created a book that's an enjoyable, engrossing read that also addresses colorism, the generational impact of slavery, and privilege head on in the context of Layla's life. I was impressed, and highly recommend this one.

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