The American Queen
by Vanessa Miller
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Pub Date 30 Jan 2024 | Archive Date 01 Mar 2024
Thomas Nelson--FICTION, Thomas Nelson
In 1869 a kingdom rose in the South. And Louella was its queen.
Over the twenty-four years she’s been enslaved on the Montgomery Plantation, Louella learned to feel one thing: hate. Hate for the man who sold her mother. Hate for the overseer who left her daddy to hang from a noose. Hate so powerful there’s no room in her heart for love, not even for the honorable Reverend William, whom she likes and respects enough to marry.
But when William finally listens to Louella’s pleas and leads the formerly enslaved people out of their plantation, Louella begins to replace her hate with hope. Hope that they will find a place where they can live free from fear. Hope that despite her many unanswered prayers, she can learn to trust for new miracles.
Soon, William and Louella become the appointed king and queen of their self-proclaimed Kingdom of the Happy Land. And though they are still surrounded by opposition, they continue to share a message of joy and goodness—and fight for the freedom and dignity of all.
Transformative and breathtakingly honest, The American Queen shares the unsung true history of a kingdom built as a refuge for the courageous people who dared to dream of a different way of life.
Extensive Publicity and Marketing Campaign including:
• Print and electronic galleys available for media and sales
• Promotions at national events such as ALA Conference and Essence Festival of Culture
• Goodreads, NetGalley, and blogger / influencer outreach to garner early reader reviews
• Early ARC mailings to booksellers, including Black-owned bookstores, and trade publications
• Targeted media outreach to secure features with outlets covering historical, women’s, and Christian fiction
• Dedicated e-mails to HCCP consumer and librarian lists
• National digital advertising campaign
• February 2024 Indie Next List (nominations due November 28, 2023) and January 2024 LibraryReads (nominations due December 1, 2023) promotional campaigns
• Social media promotions through HCCP, influencers, and author’s social channels – including cover reveal, tour news, giveaways, videos, and contests
• Vanessa will embark on a Southern tour in the states the Queen and King travel through on their way to the Happy Land: Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina
• Media inquiries: Margaret Kercher, firstname.lastname@example.org
“The American Queen brings to light another hidden triumph in Black American history. Queen Louella is frankly a woman that everyone should know. Filled with bravery and cultural beauty, this marvel of a novel transported me while educating me on the sheer determination of an emancipated community to not only survive but to also thrive.” —Sadeqa Johnson, NYT bestselling author of The House of Eve
“The American Queen is beautifully told, a story rife with struggle, intrigue, and the indomitable spirit of a woman strong enough to carry the weight of a community, bold enough to dream the impossible, and determined enough to fashion dreams into reality. Louella Montgomery is a woman for the ages.” —Lisa Wingate, #1 NYT bestselling author of The Book of Lost Friends
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 27 members
This was soooooo good! I had been eagerly awaiting approval for this book and I wasn't disappointed! I loved every minute of it.
This author included one of my very favorite songs of all times. There is a balm in Gilead. Oh my how I love that tune. Another verse is There is a balm in Gilead that heals a sin sick soul.
That balm is our Lord Jesus Christ and here's a quote that's used twice in which loved because it is a gentle reminder.
Abigail reminding Louella “The truth is, everything didn’t go the way you planned it, but life can still be good, and we all still need your compassion and your guidance.”
This novel will leave you in tears in some places you'll be shaking your head at them.
The one I really didn't care much for was Robert.
An amazing story of a group of freed slaves searching for a place of dignity and a place to call home.
Louella Montgomery, The American Queen breaks silence with strength to beat down the barriers in the community of hate. Dividends of strength that barrel down the wall that society deems unworthy. This book speaks volumes that recognizing struggles with determination. Absolutely amazing and wonderfully written.
The American Queen located in the historical fiction category piqued my curiosity with an immediacy that required satisfaction. The story is about the life of Louella Montgomery, former slave turned Queen of Happy Land.
It begins shortly before the Civil War ended, and the first chapter is a brutal one. The author stayed true to the times and did not shy away from the atrocities committed against enslaved African Americans - more than that, she had a grasp on trauma and what trauma will do and how it affects people differently. I appreciated how Louella and William (her husband) were at odds about what to do after the war. William wanted to stay and make a life as a paid worker in and in a few brief chapters, Vanessa Miller painted a bleak and realistic portrait of share cropping. I felt trapped just reading about it.
Ultimately, William and Louella make the call to leave the Montgomery plantation to make a life for themselves elsewhere and this is where the story really starts. It’s so incredible I can’t believe why I’ve never heard their story. The along with 200+ other souls migrated to the border of South Carolina and North Carolina where they purchased land and established a Kingdom where all could live and be supported and cared for, fed, and educated. I especially loved how she refused to be silenced. Such a beautiful advocate for those unseen and it’s one of my favorite qualities about her.
I am grateful to the author for bringing Louella’s contributions to the United States into the spotlight. Her story is truly such a marvel, and this telling of it was as enjoyable as it was informational. Well worth the read! I’d like to thank Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I enjoyed this book. This story is about a group of people who started out as slaves who wanted to be free. Once they became free, they started a journey to find a place they could call their own. Louella Montgomery was a true visionary who helped lead her people along with her husband, William, and others to the Happy Land. You will connect with the characters in this story. You will experience happy and sad moments as you learn about their journey. Get your tissues ready. The author's notes were truly interesting on what led her to write this story. Vanessa Miller did an outstanding job with writing this. I recommend this book to others, and I look forward to reading more books by her.
A Happy Land rises from oppression in this inspiring historical novel
This is a fictionalized account of the true story of Louella Bobo Montgomery. She was born into slavery on a cotton plantation in Mississippi, emancipated after the Civil War, and the co-founder, with her husband William, of a free and entirely self-sufficient community of formerly enslaved people in the Appalachian Mountains on the border between North and South Carolina. The Happy Land was established in 1869 on acres of the former Oakland Plantation that the people cleared and purchased from the owner. The plantation’s former slaves quarters were located on that section of land.
Many of the facts of Louella’s life are heartbreaking, and difficult to read about. She and her family were the victims of senseless and ceaseless brutality for decades at the hands of the White slaveowners, and this treatment continued beyond the emancipation as the former slaves were uneducated, lived in abject poverty with no means of earning an income, and under constant threat of violence due to widespread, unapologetic racism. But Louella and William were resilient and refused to accept that Black people could not have better lives. They were so courageous and charismatic that they inspired over 200 people to join them on a journey of faith across the South (largely on foot) to find a refuge of peace and safety.
The story of the American Queen is one of inspiration, hope, family, and faith. It is so clear that this project was an absolute labor of love for the author, and the depth of her research so that she could give a voice to the Happy Landers is apparent throughout the novel. One of the things that I really enjoyed was her straightforward writing style. The third-person narrator was direct and mirrored the tone of the colloquial speech patterns of her characters. As a result, the prose never condescended to or patronized the characters.
While the pacing of the novel was uneven in places, the importance and the need for this story in the world outweighs any negative criticisms.
This was one of my favorite quotes:
“'It used to scare me the way you speak your mind, but lately I’ve been thinking that the good Lord must’ve put you on this earth to help those who can’t help themselves.'”
Her grandmother then laid down on her pallet on the opposite side of the fire, as if she hadn’t said anything out of the ordinary, but she’d said a mouthful. All her life Louella had been told to shut her mouth, mind her manners, and stop being so insolent. When all she ever wanted was to be heard. To be seen as more than some no-count enslaved girl. Her grandmother’s words blessed her very soul."
Thank you, Vanessa. My soul was blessed from reading this book.
Thank you NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for the opportunity to read and review this novel. All opinions are my own.
It's been awhile since I read a 5 star book...but I think that this book deserves it. No it isn't like some of my other 5 star books, but I really can't take any stars away from this one.
The American Queen explores a rarely known REAL place from history in North Carolina on the border with South Carolina called Happy Land. It was established by newly emancipated slaves and created to be a refuge for all slaves who would come. In the book, the policy of the leaders for the land was simple--contribute something and you will be taken care of because (in the words from 3 Musketeers) "All for One and One for all!" Regardless of your age, infirmity, or capabilities, you will share in the blessings equally. This was created because of their inhumane and debase experiences as slaves for cruel masters. Being able to own something for themselves and to better themselves how THEY desired must be experienced. We obviously see it as socialism and the author discusses that aspect in the author notes at the end. And highly recommend reading the notes about where the story came from and details about what was real in the telling.
This is a Christian Fiction book and there are so many aspects of faith. Faith when nothing good is happening. Faith in the midst of cruelty. Faith in the good when all around you is the bad. Questioning the purpose God has. Questioning who He even is when all around you is pain and suffering and evil. I don't care who you are--if you are a Christian you've experienced at least some of these questions in your journey of faith.
Some quotes I noted from the book:
<blockquote>"If God wanted them to see goodness, then why so much pain? Where was God in her darkest of hours? All these things were her inward thoughts, but she did not--would not--say any of it out loud. She lifted her face to the heavens, silently telling God, I need answers...I am undone. My heart is heavy with grief."</blockquote>
I mean. Wow. I know there are so many out there who could have said this themselves in their darkest time. So so many. Louella will speak the heart of so many men and women out there.
<blockquote>"There were so many days that Louella had wondered if God was listening or if she was praying in vain. She had no way of knowing how or why God answered some prayers and left others hanging out in the wind. Even so, she had learned to bless God through it all and wait on the miracles He sent her way."</blockquote>
Honestly--this one is definitely one that I've pondered myself.
And I loved this advice from the lead character's best friend...
<blockquote>"the truth is, everything didn't go the way you planned it, but life can still be good..."</blockquote>
So. Much. yes.
This book had very very hard spots to read since it was trying to capture the inhuman way that the slaves were treated. You will wince. You will be ashamed of humanity. And you will marvel at the attitudes of the faithful who never gave up on God.
I highly recommend this book.
**I received this book as an ARC from the publishers and NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are 100% my own.
This story isn't an easy fiction read. It comes from a place when horrible atrocities took place to people. It's a book that needs to be read though as the reader can learn about the strength of the people who lived in Happy Land. William and Louella led their people through extremely trying times and sought the Lord first throughout it all. Mama Sue was another great character with her steady presence in the background to the leading characters. To learn that William and Louella were "real people" made the story even more endearing.
Thanks so much to netgalley and the publisher for the arc. The opinions are my own.
Absolutely mesmerizing and brilliantly researched. I learned about a part of history I had never heard of before. Kudos to Miller for carefully excavating this "needs to be told" story of an amazing woman and her amazing community.
I could tell that Miller is fascinated by this research and as in awe of this breathless story as I was... it comes across on every page.
Once I got into this book, I could not put it down. Given that the current climate is either rewriting or erasing African American history, this is one of the most important works of our time. It is a story of perseverance and overcoming in spite of all the hardships that were presented to recently freed enslaved people. To know that people that were born enslaved built a community of over 500 families blew me a way. The amount of research the author did (included in the Author’s Note) was phenomenal and reminded me why I loved Yellow Wife. I loved Louella so much. She is the epitome of “men are the head but women are the neck and we can turn the head any way we want”. While both her and William are the king and queen, she is really the true leader of this kingdom. Learning that this was based on a true story has me wanting to visit South Carolina and pay respect to Happy Land.
If you liked Yellow Wife, Carolina Built, The Personal Librarian or The Great Mrs Elias, I highly recommend you read this one and learn about Queen Louella. It is another hidden secret of African American History that everyone should know and celebrate. You can’t call yourself an ally or advocate and not want to celebrate this beautiful fictionalized history of African Americans.
SN: this book does not include the graphic violence of Yellow Wife
The American Queen by Vanessa Miller, I did not think a book could pissed me off one minute, bring tears to my eyes the next, piss me off again and finally let me cry and grieve for all that was lost, destroyed, tricked, beaten and how they survived moving from a slave planation thru North and South Carolina, with little food and surrounded by hateful people to finally their “Happy Place” and for Louella and her husband to become King and Queen to a place where African Americans were treated like humans. I admire Vanessa Miller's for the research she did on this book. I understand that the political feeling of the day is to hide or lie about the truth, but it’s authors like Vanessa Miller that will never let it go and it’s booksellers like me who will not allow anyone to hide my black history. In conclusion, the character, Louella was heroic, with a determined Spirit, and fearless, just like Ms. Miller. There are not enough words to describe going from hated to a joyful and God loving spirit, but Ms. Miller did just that.
I absolutely loved The American Queen. Vanessa Miller brings to like a piece of African American history that has been hidden for decades. I found the story of Queen Louella Montgomery an emotional read that was riveting, fascinating and inspiring. Ms. Miller takes read error a journey of grit, as William and Louella take a trek from Mississippi to the Kingdom of Happy Land. Fellow readers I experienced the emotions of sorrow and joy in this great book written by one of my favorite authors, Vanessa Miller. Kudos on a well written story.
Once I got into this book, I could not put it down. Given that the current climate is either rewriting or erasing African-American history, this is one of the most important works of our time. It is a story of perseverance and overcoming despite all the hardships that were presented to recently freed enslaved people. To know that people who were born enslaved built a community of over 500 families blew me away. The amount of research the author did (included in the Author’s Note) was phenomenal and reminded me why I loved Yellow Wife. I loved Louella so much. She is the epitome of “men are the head but women are the neck and we can turn the head any way we want”. While both she and William are the king and queen, she is the true leader of this kingdom. Learning that this was based on a true story has me wanting to visit South Carolina and pay respect to Happy Land.
If you liked Yellow Wife, Carolina Built, The Personal Librarian, or The Great Mrs Elias, I highly recommend you read this one and learn about Queen Louella. It is another hidden secret of African-American History that everyone should know and celebrate. You can’t call yourself an ally or advocate and not want to celebrate this beautiful fictionalized history of African Americans.