Vanessa
Award Winning Historical Novelist
STEM, Avid Researcher
Travels from: Atlanta, GA

“Dazzling…compelling…Riley combines in-depth research with passionate and frank storytelling, The experiences and achievements of powerful women, especially those whose lives began among the enslaved, are too often overlooked, and Riley’s richly engaging novel is a ringing reminder of how much we miss when these stories remain untold.” — Booklist

Vanessa Riley is an acclaimed author known for captivating novels such as Island Queen, a Good Morning America Buzz Pick, and Queen of Exiles, an ABC View Lit Pick. She was honored as the 2023 Georgia Literary Fiction Author of the Year for Sister Mother Warrior. Her craft highlights hidden narratives of Black women and women of color, emphasizing strong sisterhoods, diverse communities, and power across historical fiction, romance, and mystery genres. Her works have received praise from esteemed publications like the Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Publisher Weekly, and the New York Times.

Beyond her literary achievements, Vanessa holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering from Stanford University and several degrees from Penn State, adding a research-oriented approach that emphasizes inclusivity in her storytelling about Caribbean, Georgian, and Regency eras, resulting in over twenty-five published titles.

As a member of Regency Fiction Writers, Crime Writers of Color, Mystery Writers of America, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Christian Book Lovers Retreat, and the Historical Novel Society, Vanessa advocates for diverse voices and storytelling. She’s also working to increase Sickle Cell Anemia awareness. When not writing, she can be found baking, crafting her Trinidadian grandma’s recipes, and writing on her southern porch, fueled by the perfect amount of caffeine.

Vanessa's Featured Titles

Murder in Berkeley Square (The Lady Worthing Mysteries)

Kensington |
Historical Mystery

Embracing the true diversity of the Regency era, award-winning author Vanessa Riley brings readers a vibrant historical mystery starring an engaging heroine with an independent streak, a notorious past, and a decided talent for sleuthing in Murder in Berkley Square the latest novel in her Lady Worthing Mystery series.

A marriage of convenience saved Lady Abigail Worthing’s family from disgrace, but she’s finding her absent husband’s endless conditions increasingly repressive. Unable to stay at their London home during the oncoming winter, she accepts a ride to the country from her neighbor, Stapleton Henderson. However, she’s less than delighted that she’s his excuse to avoid a dinner held by Lord Charles Duncan, one of London’s most powerful—and relentless—magistrates. More irritating, women are decidedly unwelcome at the evening’s prestigious discussion of criminality—even though Abigail and Stapleton have solved several cases together . . .

Then an unexpected blizzard strands them at Lord Duncan’s with his now-houseguests. Suddenly, an evening of fine dining, fine brandy, and insightful debate becomes an inescapable—and deadly—ordeal. The ultimate test for Abigial’s skill. One of the dinner guests is found dead in front of the Berkley Square mansion. And when another party is murdered, Abigail discovers each had received a taunting, prophetic nursery rhyme . . . coincidence, or clues left by a killer on the loose?

Through deft interrogation, she learns everyone present is connected to Lord Duncan’s greatest failure in the courts: the conviction of a Martinique plantation informant for a murder he didn’t commit. But as Abigail races to find who was really responsible for the miscarriage of justice, she’ll be forced to put her own and Stapleton’s lives at risk in a gambit that will alter their fates forever—or end them permanently.

A Gamble at Sunset (Betting Against the Duke)

Zebra |
Regency Romance

Award-winning author Vanessa Riley turns all convention on its head for the first in an enchanting, dazzlingly diverse new Regency romance trilogy featuring a duke, three sisters, and a tantalizing bet with a most desirable reward…

“A triumphant return to romance….Riley renders the Regency in living color, with impressive historical detail and an admirably diverse cast. Historical romance readers will be entranced.” –Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

When a duke discovers the woman he loves was tricked into marrying another, the master chess player makes the now-widowed Viscountess the highest-stakes wager of his life in a last-ditch effort to win her affection: he will find husbands for her two sisters—or depart forever...

Georgina Wilcox, a wallflower with hidden musical talents, is furious when her reclusive older sister—the recently widowed Viscountess—refuses sorely needed help from the Duke of Torrance, the only gentleman who has shown kindness to the bereft Wilcox sisters. Georgina decides to get back at her sister and shock the Viscountess by kissing the first willing stranger she meets in the enchanting gardens of Anya House. Unfortunately, her sister is not the sole witness. A group of reporters and the ton’s leading gossips catch Georgina in a passionate embrace with a reticent composer, Lord Mark Sebastian.

The third son of an influential marquis, the tongue-tied Mark is determined to keep the scandal from ruining Georgina’s reputation and his own prospects of winning the celebrated Harlbert’s Prize for music. Under the guise of private voice lessons, the two embark on a daring gamble to fool the ton into believing that their feigned courtship is honorable while bolstering Georgina’s singing genius to captivate potential suitors. Sexist cartoons, family rivalries, and an upcoming ball test the fake couple’s resolve. Will their sudden fiery collaboration—and growing attraction—prove there’s nothing false about a first kiss and scandalously irresistible temptation?

Queen of Exiles: A Novel

William Morrow |
Historical Fiction

“You may not know Marie-Louise Christophe but once you have met her, you won’t forget her. Vanessa Riley’s historical novel feels timely and relevant, commemorating a time when Black women were queens.” —Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Acclaimed historical novelist Vanessa Riley is back with another novel based on the life of an extraordinary Black woman from history: Haiti’s Queen Marie-Louise Christophe, who escaped a coup in Haiti to set up her own royal court in Italy during the Regency era, where she became a popular member of royal European society. 

The Queen of Exiles is Marie-Louise Christophe, wife and then widow of Henry I, who ruled over the newly liberated Kingdom of Hayti in the wake of the brutal Haitian Revolution.

In 1810 Louise is crowned queen as her husband begins his reign over the first and only free Black nation in the Western Hemisphere. But despite their newfound freedom, Haitians still struggle under mountains of debt to France and indifference from former allies in Britain and the new United States. Louise desperately tries to steer the country’s political course as King Henry descends into a mire of mental illness.

In 1820, King Henry is overthrown and dies by his own hand. Louise and her daughters manage to flee to Europe with their smuggled jewels. In exile, the resilient Louise redefines her role, recovering the fortune that Henry had lost and establishing herself as an equal to the kings of European nations. With newspapers and gossip tracking their every movement, Louise and her daughters tour Europe like other royals, complete with glittering balls and princes with marriage proposals. As they find their footing—and acceptance—they discover more about themselves, their Blackness, and the opportunities they can grasp in a European and male-dominated world.

Queen of Exiles is the tale of a remarkable Black woman of history—a canny and bold survivor who chooses the fire and ideals of political struggle, and then is forced to rebuild her life on her own terms, forever a queen.

“A sweeping look at the political, social, and romantic intrigue surrounding Haiti’s first and only queen. Riley’s depiction is richly imagined and wholly original.” — Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Magnolia Palace

“Queen of Exiles is the riveting account of Marie-Louise Christophe, Haiti’s first and only Queen. Bold, ambitious, historically sound and beautifully told.”–Sadeqa Johnson, New York Times bestselling author of The House of Eve

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Herstory Revealed: Finding Power and Empathy in Hidden Figures

Explore the concept of “herstory” as a way to reclaim and celebrate women’s contributions throughout history.
Discuss the transformative effect of discovering hidden figures on women’s sense of agency, resilience, and leadership.
Examine the role of empathy in understanding the experiences and challenges faced by women in different historical contexts.
Offer practical tips and resources for individuals and communities to explore and honor hidden figures in their own journeys of self-discovery and empowerment.

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Tips for the Armchair Historian

Delve into history from the comfort of your home with an array of resources including online libraries, historical biographies, and e-book platforms, offering a wealth of primary sources and scholarly works.

Immerse yourself in captivating historical documentaries and podcasts, available on popular streaming platforms, providing expert insights and a visual journey through time.

Explore the past through engaging online courses and lectures from platforms like Coursera, Khan Academy, and YouTube, offering a flexible and educational approach to various historical subjects.

Embark on virtual museum tours and delve into digital archives with platforms like Google Arts & Culture, accessing a treasure trove of historical artifacts and exhibits from around the world.

Analyze cultural trends and localized tours through TikTok and Instagram

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Write Fast, Write Now - Unveiling Character Arcs: The Journey of Goals, Relationships, Beliefs, and Lies in Storytelling

Explore the intricacies of character development through the lens of goals, relationships, belief systems, and internal conflicts, unraveling the transformational journey each character undergoes.

Gain insights into crafting dynamic and relatable characters by examining their attainable goals, evolving relationships with others, shifting belief systems, and the underlying lies that shape their perspectives.

Navigate the narrative arc of characters from the beginning, where goals are set, relationships established, belief systems defined, and lies entrenched, to the climax, where tensions peak and transformations are catalyzed.

Learn how to create compelling conflicts and resolutions by tracking characters’ progress in confronting their lies, reshaping beliefs, and forging new relationships, leading to powerful character arcs that resonate with audiences.

Discover the art of weaving character growth seamlessly into your storytelling, ensuring that each character’s journey from the beginning to the end of the story is both impactful and emotionally resonant.

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The Path to Finding Your Passion as Fiction Writer, Confessions of a Tech Nerd

From Tech to Tales: Embrace the journey of a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering turned passionate fiction writer, sharing insights on balancing a technical career with a fervent love for creative storytelling.

Burning the Midnight Oil: Discover the power of dedication and perseverance as I reveal the secrets of finding time for writing amidst a demanding professional life, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing your passion.

Fueling the Fire: Uncover strategies for nurturing your passion for fiction writing, from avid reading and enrolling in fiction classes to attending conferences and investing in your craft, all while juggling a busy career.

Following Your Muse: Explore the mindset shift required to pursue your true passion, including tips on identifying what you truly love, setting goals, and overcoming obstacles to align your career with your creative aspirations.

From Dream to Reality: Learn how to turn your passion for fiction writing into a tangible reality, drawing from personal experiences and practical advice to inspire and empower fellow aspiring writers on their own creative journeys.

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Navigating Faith and Fiction: Writing Through Dilemmas with Grace and Truth

Embracing Complexity: Discover the art of addressing challenging topics in fiction while staying true to your faith, navigating the complexities of human nature and moral dilemmas with empathy and integrity.

Shining Light in Darkness: Explore how to weave themes of faith and belief into narratives that resonate with a diverse audience, illuminating the struggles and triumphs of characters who grapple with their beliefs in a world of moral ambiguity.

Character Redemption: Learn techniques for portraying nuanced characters, including villains, with depth and understanding, showcasing their humanity and exploring the potential for redemption even in the midst of darkness.

Respecting Diversity: Discuss the importance of respectful representation of diverse beliefs and perspectives in fiction writing, fostering empathy and dialogue while staying true to your own convictions and faith journey.

Empowering Voices: Empower Christian writers and writers of faith to find their voice and purpose in storytelling, offering encouragement and practical strategies for navigating the complexities of faith-based narratives in a secular literary landscape.

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Caribbean Chronicles: Unraveling the Rich Tapestry of Freedom, Geopolitics, and Rebellion in the West Indies

From Chains to Sovereignty: Delve into the intricate history of the West Indies, spanning from the transatlantic slave trade to the Haitian revolutions, and explore the evolution of freedom and self-determination in the Caribbean.

Geopolitical Chessboard: Uncover the geopolitical dynamics that shaped the Caribbean during the 17th to 19th centuries, including the influences of colonial powers, revolutionary movements, and alliances that reshaped the region’s political landscape.

Rebellion and Resilience: Examine the pivotal role of rebellions in Monserrat, Grenada, Demerara (Guyana), and Haiti, highlighting the courage and resilience of Caribbean peoples in their fight for liberty and autonomy.

Women’s Voices in History: Discover the multifaceted roles of Caribbean women as stabilizers, breeders, and warriors, exploring their contributions to family life, resistance movements, and the shaping of Caribbean society.

Legacy of Freedom Fighters:** Reflect on the enduring legacy of Caribbean freedom fighters such as Gran Toya, Queen Louise, Dorothy Kirwan Thomas and others, whose leadership and sacrifices continue to inspire generations and shape the Caribbean’s cultural and political identity.

A Gamble at Sunset Reader’s Guide Link

“Claiming You Story – How to Journal to Writer the Book of You Heart” Link

“First Impressions in Romance” Handout Link

Vanessa’s Handout on Writing Method Link

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Island Queen, a Good Morning America Buzz Pick,
Queen of Exiles, an ABC View Lit Pick.
2023 Georgia Literary Fiction Author of the Year for Sister Mother Warrior
Amazon Bestseller
Apple Bestseller
B&N Bestseller
Winner of the Beacon Award
2018 Emma Award Winner for Historical Romance
2016 Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence
2021 Reading Warriors Choice Award

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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