Last Stop Freedom


Julia Bigsby is a spinster whose clergyman father discourages any possible suitors so she can remain at his beck and call as his personal assistant. Through a fortuitous set of circumstances, she meets Nathaniel Hamilton, a dashing planter from South Carolina. He pursues her and asks for her hand after a brief but intense courtship. She accepts, convinced another opportunity to escape her father’s influence will never come along.

She soon comes to regret her decision. Her husband is autocratic and unyielding, her new family rejects her, and the South’s brutal system of slavery violates every principle she holds dear. Her attempts at rebellion meet with ever more strict measures until her marriage becomes a prison worse than the one imposed by her father. One constant keeps her sane: her warm affection for her maid Fanny, a slave girl whose intellect and stoic wisdom have inspired Julia’s respect and admiration.

Fanny has come to her new mistress from a life fraught with secrecy and insecurity. She is awed to discover that Julia treats her like an equal and friend. This blessing is compounded when she meets the estate’s blacksmith, the gentle giant Jacob. They fall in love and marry, but Nathaniel’s unbridled lust for Fanny threatens whatever contentment they are able to find. Family chaos ensues, prompting Nathaniel’s decision to sell Fanny away. Her only hope of remaining with Jacob is for them to escape before their master can act.

An agent of the Underground Railroad offers to spirit the two slaves north to Canada and freedom. Life without Fanny is too bleak for Julia to contemplate, and she decides to flee with them. Thus begins a harrowing journey that tests the fugitives’ ingenuity and resolve and brings Julia a second chance at love and happiness.

Click here to read an excerpt from Last Stop Freedom.

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Wendy E. Thomas of Allbooks Reviews: Non-stop reading for Last Stop Freedom, November 19, 2011

When we first meet Julia Bigsby, she is running for her life through the swamps of South Carolina as she is chased by hounds and a tracking party. Someone wants Julia back. This is a far cry from the Reverend's daughter who up until recently had lived with her widowed father tucked safely away within the church's boundaries.

It all started with a letter addressed to Miss Julia Bigsby, Troy, New York from her Cousin Mary in 1851 inviting her to visit with members of her Aunt's family. Julia, whose daily entertainment includes mending her father's robes and writing his sermons, longs for the excitement and adventure such a visit would bring. With a little bit of cunning on her part, she wins the argument with her father and sets off to join "the wealthy side" of her family and one which her father - a man so frugal he limits the coal for heating not on the temperature but by the calendar- abhors for its constant displays of wealth.

During her visit, in order to escape the torment of returning to live under her father's rule, Julia agrees to marry Nathaniel Hamilton, a plantation owner in South Carolina. Little does she know that this decision just moves her from one house of repression to another. Her only source of comfort at the plantation becomes the black slave in the house; Fanny who listens to her and gives her emotional strength. When Nathaniel threatens to sell Fanny, Julia must step up and make some decisions in order to take back control over her life.

What follows is an intriguing story of cultures and morals clashing including - North vs. South, men vs. women, black vs. white, and religious doctrine vs. free will. Ann Nolder Heinz does a wonderful job of weaving all of these points of view into a solid story filled with beautiful imagery and accurate historical facts.

Heinz deftly shows us the inner turmoil of her main character as she struggles with what is allowed, what is expected of her, and with what she knows is the right thing to do. With a quick pace and nice use of credible dialogue, Heinz brings us along as Julia, who had only wanted to be out in the world to have adventure and escape her father's rule, matures into a young woman of strength who becomes committed to a cause that although not popular, and is dangerous for all involved, is the absolute right thing to do.

Heinz who has also written: Wilt Thou Be Mine, Final Victim, Free Fall, and Extreme Influence, is an accomplished and prolific writer who does a wonderful job of bringing us along to watch Julia's awakening as she moves from being the child of her father to becoming the strong, independent woman she is capable of being.

Arline Chase, author of Go Down Moses: The Story of Harriet Tubman, Slave, Conductor on the Underground Railroad, and Spy for the Union Army:

Exhilarating! Ann Nolder Heinz's accurate historical novel contains issues of interest to women in any era and addresses questions of import to modern women as well as those who lived in the pre-Civil War era. Her book, also of interest to students of Black History, has an excellent portrayal of the Underground Railroad and the escape routes designed to protect runaways from falling victim to the Fugitive Slave Act. It's a beautifully written, accurate account, yet as compelling as any modern thriller.

Sandra Heptinstall of Whispering Winds Book Reviews:

The author has done a remarkable job taking us back into the pre-Civil War era. It was a time that left a dark spot in the history of our country. While this book is historical fiction, the atrocities it mentions were all too real.

This is the story of a young woman named Julia who keeps house for her preacher father and acts as his assistant. She has no friends and is resigned to a life alone. One day she receives an invitation to spend a couple of weeks with her cousins and uncle at a resort in Saratoga Springs, New York. She accepts even though her father refuses to bless the trip. While there, she meets a man named Nathaniel Hamilton who owns a plantation in the South and represents the southern way of life as superior to all others. In particular, he claims that his slaves are treated as trusted servants and are content in their lives.

They are instantly attracted to one another. Julia accepts his marriage proposal and moves with him to his plantation, where she soon discovers the truth about the horrors of slavery. From there on you will learn about the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement, as well as the manner in which slaves were really treated. I pray we have learned from the past to never judge others. Yet at the same time I pray for forgiveness from others also.

Don’t let the number of pages in this book put you off. While reading it, I often had to stop and do other things. But each time I picked it up again, I found it was just as fascinating as when I started it.

This book gets a five star rating from me.