TMW Book Reviews

Once in a Blood Moon


Dorothea Hubble Bonneau

Once in a Blood Moon is an incredible story about resilience, compassion, and bravery written by Dorothea Hubble Bonneau.

Set in Heaven Hill Plantation, upriver from Georgetown, South Caroline, sixteen-year-old Alexandra Degambia lives a charmed life in the elite society of free people of color. As she learns to dance the minuet and play the violin, she is torn between her father’s dreams of preserving their Diola heritage and her white-passing mother’s wishes to be a proper lady. Unfortunately for Alexandra, her adolescent worries pale in comparison to her future troubles.

As prejudiced landowners from nearby areas stake their claim on Heaven Hill by force, Alexandra must use her resources and creativity to ensure her survival. Adventurous, daring, and heartfelt, the author portrays Alexandra’s growth from a privileged teen to a resilient woman.

As we start the book, Alexandra is torn between pleasing her mother to preserve her privileges and proving herself in her own way. As the story progresses, Alexandra is forced to shed the comforts of the only world she has ever known. Guided by her aunt and the spirits of her father and beloved grandmother, she strives to become the woman she is destined to be. Alexandra is a character you cannot help but root for.

While Alexandra is the main character, the story does an excellent job of showcasing other vital characters along with their struggles. John Fowler is a nod to a famous white slave for whom Alexandra risks her life in an attempt to guide the ten-year-old boy to freedom.

Another great feature of this multi-racial historical fiction is the author’s dedication to researching early American History. As I read through the pages, I couldn’t help but notice the author’s deliberate care and consideration in fleshing out the characters and the overall setting. As he grew older, the real Fowler eventually married Millie Glass and had nineteen children and 199 grandchildren. The author herself is a descendant of John Fowler and has honored his legacy with this heart-stirring work.

As portrayed in the book, John Fowler’s kindness to Alexandra inspires her to continue the path she must take. While he may not take center stage, he is undoubtedly one of the most unforgettable characters in this book.

In summary, Once in a Blood Moon is a triumphant read that touches the heart. Nevertheless, readers must heed caution as the book does contain harsh realities of how enslaved people were treated back in the day.

If you are interested in a well-written story about selfless love, resilience, and inner strength, this book is a must-read!

– The Moving Words Review

Official Entry: The Most Moving Book Award, Jan. 3, 2024

“The author elegantly articulates her precarious position between white and black society. Overall, this novel explores issues of equality and personal freedom in thought-provoking ways. Sharp writing, an original plot, and a strong female protagonist make for an engrossing read.”

– Kirkus Review

“Once in a Blood Moon” is a five-time award winner:

  • 2020 Best Books Award Winner for African American Fiction
  • 2020 American Fiction Award Winner
  • Five-Star Reader’s Choice selection
  • 2020 Chanticleer Goethe Award, first place for Historical Fiction
  • 2021 Finalist, Screencraft Book to Screen Contest