Excerpt: My Name is Ona Judge by Suzette D. Harrison

I’m on the blog tour for My Name is Ona Judge, out now from Bookouture. I haven’t quite finished reading, so my review isn’t up yet. But in the meantime, I’ve got an excerpt to share, courtesy of the publisher! Scroll on to read it.

  • Title: My Name is Ona Judge
  • Author: Suzette D. Harrison
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Historical Fiction



1797, Age 22
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

The sweet aroma of the jasmine-scented night was lost on me as terror clouded my senses, rendering me barely able to breathe. I will leave. I will be free! Heart beating like the drum corps that celebrated Mistress when the General was elected, I rushed through the night,
palms sweating, fingers trembling. I clung to the shadows, staying close to the buildings while gripping the hood of my cloak, praying it shielded my face, not merely my head. As a
servant from a house of prominence, mine was a familiar face and I could not risk being recognized by anyone I might encounter on those darkened streets. Still, I could not afford to
slow my pace and hoped I merely appeared to be a servant dutifully engaged in her owner’s bidding.

Mother, help me not to fail. Please be with me.

I’d promised my mother I would accept freedom’s hand if ever it was extended. The chance to escape might never come again. I refused to forfeit it. I had to honor my promise and hold
on to hope while swiftly, mentally revisiting the hidden clues in Mr. Raitt’s elaborate, singsong message. I was to board a ship that night and sail to freedom. But was I really to bypass the
blacksmith’s shed, the agreed-upon place, and hurry to Sister Vashti’s instead? Not knowing the reason for the change in plans, I pushed turbulent thoughts away. I could only pray I’d
rightly interpreted Frank’s instructions delivered through Mr. Raitt as I rushed towards Sister Vashti’s residence in the far, dark distance.

The Creator didn’t make me to be someone else’s possession. I bolstered my courage with that simple truth. Tucking my chin closer to my chest, I hurried towards freedom’s dream. No
person had a right to own me—my spirit, soul, or body. No matter their position in society. Self-important, indifferent persons had erred against my humanity by writing my name in
a ledger, same as they did their cattle and sheep. They thought me a commodity to barter and sell; livestock to rule, command, and inventory. But I was invaluably more, and I deserved

That truth propelled me through the moonless night. It steadied me when a cat shot from the shadows and into my path, nearly tripping me. I lurched backwards and covered my
mouth, stifling a scream. Rather than disappear in the dark, it arched its back and hissed as if conveying an otherworldly message. A shiver ran through me; still, I rejected the feline’s
ominousness and gave it a wide berth. I could not remain in this city of brotherly love and liberty, nor return to Mount Vernon. My right to dignity and freedom wasn’t recognized in either place. Heart pounding, I swiftly resumed my uncertain journey, determined to escape fate and living the balance of my life as a slave. I’d been born into slavery where unquestionable loyalty and devotion were demanded, and resistance was violently suppressed. I’d been destined to endure a heinous system and was relegated to a servile position by virtue of the color of my skin. But that night I preferred to stare death in the face or be
dragged through Hades than to return to captivity and life with an evil woman who delighted in my being debased. Being given to her as a wedding gift—like fine china or a knitted blanket—was a mortal wound I could not endure or permit.

Hurry, Ona, the ship is waiting!

I obeyed my command as an owl hooted overhead. I glanced upward only to stumble in the process. I righted my step and drew my cloak closer about me despite the tepidness of the
evening. The air was thick with warmth, and perhaps my nerveracking tension. 

Sweat trickled beneath my arms. My head felt somewhat dizzy, yet I couldn’t decrease my pace or abandon the possibility of freedom and fully living. Noticing the slightest change in the atmosphere, my heart galloped with relief. The air had cooled. The brackishness of the water was pronounced. I’d neared the neighborhood adjacent to the waterfront, and my next steps towards destiny.

I must find Sister Vashti’s house.

In the dark, things seemed turned about. I needed a moment to calm my racing heart and get my bearings, but time and the sudden clip-clop of horses’ hooves behind me allowed no such luxury. I couldn’t spare even a moment to turn around and face my possible pursuers or determine if my absence had been discovered and Mistress had sent the authorities to reclaim
me. Knowing the slightest delay might mean a return to captivity, I lifted the hem of my dress and ran, the hood of my cloak streaming behind me. Haste was imperative for I was the lady’s
maid once bound to the President’s house, and I had dared to flee. I was the one who’d slipped away unnoticed and was determined to be free. Even if it meant I lost my life while trying.

So what do you think? Would you read it? I can’t wait to finish and share my thoughts!

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