Title: Juliana: The Juliana Series Book 1
Genre: Historical Romance
“An Absolutely Beautiful and Moving Novel!
--Philip Crawford, author of Mafia and the Gays
She went looking for fame, and found her true self, instead.
New York City, 1941. Alice “Al” Huffman and her childhood friends are fresh off the potato farms of Long Island and bound for Broadway. Al’s plans for stage success are abruptly put on hold when she’s told she has no talent. As she gets a job to pay for acting classes, Al settles into a normal life with her friends and a boyfriend. It all changes when she meets Juliana.
A singer on the brink of stardom, Juliana is everything Al isn’t: glamorous, talented, and queer. The farm girl is quickly enthralled, experiencing thoughts and feelings she never realized were possible. Al finds herself slipping between two worlds: the gay underground and the “normal” world of her childhood friends. It’s a balancing act she can handle until the two worlds begin to collide.
In a city bursting with change, can Alice find what she was looking for all along?
Juliana: Volume 1: 1941-1944 is a captivating work of LGBT historical romance. If you like extensively researched settings, spell-binding storytelling, and characters you can’t help but fall for, then you’ll love the first book in award-winning playwright Vanda’s new Juliana series.
From Juliana (Juliana Series, Book 1, pp. 250 -253)
Juliana reached into the large cardboard box and laid a few ornaments wrapped in yellowed tissue paper on the rug. “Ornaments from when I was a child in Bath.” She carefully lifted one from its paper. “This one,”—She held up a delicate glass bell—“was left in my stocking by Father Christmas, uh, Santa Claus when I was five. Hand blown by a Turkish artisan. My mother bought it years before my birth when she visited Turkey.”
“When the Sultan’s son fell in love with her.”
“Exactly. Most of the others she bought in Germany before there was any such thing as this war. A few come from a trip she made to Czechoslovakia.”
“She didn’t take you with her?”
“I was too little. I stayed home with my nanny.”
“Oh. Your nanny.”
She took a few figurines from their wrappings and laid them on the rug. There were wise men, and shepherds, and sheep. “I haven’t put this crèche up in years. Mother and I used to put it up every year around the Christmas tree. They’re all hand painted.”
I began putting the figurines near the base of the tree while Juliana pulled the yellowed paper from another figurine. I looked to see Mary, Jesus’s mother, lying in her hand.
“The holy Virgin Mother,” she whispered as if shocked to have found it there. Her hand began to shake like the statue was hot. She let it fall through her fingers onto the rug. “No.” Her voice shook. “We have to put these back.”
“It didn’t break.” I picked it up to show her. “See?”
“Put it back. Put them all back.” She began frantically rewrapping the figurines.
“What’s wrong, Jule?”
“It’s hard …hard seeing these holy images from my mother …. I’m so far—far from ….”
“Far from what?”
She sat back on her hip, covering her eyes with the back of her hand, catching her breath. She slowly wound her hand into a fist. “My mother was a good Catholic who always went to Church on Sunday. She sang in the choir, you know. Could you please put these back?”
"Sure." I put the last of the figurines back into the box and took them to the closet.
“What about your father? Is he still in Bath, England?”
“You must be worried to death. What’s he doing there?”
“Working with the War Office advising Churchill. Close your mouth. You’ll catch a fly. Or maybe I should—”
She kissed my open mouth, and although I loved having her there I couldn’t help saying as soon as she released me. “Holy mackerel, advising Churchill!”
“Not by himself. There are others. And, from what I hear, no one truly advises Churchill.”
“But still. Juliana, who are you?”
“It’s my father, not me. I don’t know a thing about it. Now let’s get this tree decorated.”
When we’d finished the tree, we stood admiring it. The tinsel rain sparkled in the red, blue, and gold lights. Juliana took my hand in hers. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
“I can’t believe I’m here with you and this Christmas tree and …. Juliana, I feel … inside I feel—”
“Shall we have some champagne?”
Juliana poured two glasses and lit the fire in the fireplace. We sat on the couch quietly drinking and looking at our tree. “Everything’s so wonderful, Juliana. I think this is my best Christmas ever.”
“Hmm.” She took a sip of her champagne and suddenly looked sad. “Tell me about Christmas at your house.”
Part of me wanted to tell her about Mom, about her locking me out of the house, about her wandering in the basement in the middle of the night, about the sound of her howls seeping into my room at night through the coal ducts, about her cutting herself up, about her chasing me with a knife and my father tackling her to the ground before she put it in me. After that, they took her to the hospital for the first time. She stayed there for more than a year, and I’d sit on our porch almost every night waiting for her to come home. But I spose I was mostly waiting for the mother who used to be nice to me. I spose that’s the mother I’d been waiting for my whole life. But that mother never came home. She never came home again. I thought Juliana wanted a country story like the one I told her about my grandma and jumping in the leaves. I didn’t have one of those about my mother, except— “The sound of a little bell on Christmas morning.”
“A bell. When I was small, my mother would tiptoe into my room on Christmas morning and ring a little bell over my head. How do you describe a sound? I loved the light tinkling of that bell.” A few tears slid down my face, and I quickly wiped them away. “Juliana, my family’s nothing like yours. My mother’s crazy. Well, not always. When she has her spells. She used to be nice sometimes—when I was little—but now she hardly ever is. When she was crazy, she’d think I was an evil spirit that she had to destroy. Sometimes she threw me out of the house and locked all the doors and windows so I couldn’t get in. She didn’t mean to be mean. She just thought I was gonna hurt her.” I watched the flames devour the logs. I waited for Juliana to say—I don’t know—that it was okay, that she wasn’t afraid of me, that she still liked me. I waited; the silence got so loud.
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What I love most about the holiday season:
There is nothing in adulthood that could possibly capture the magic of Christmas morning when you’re a kid. And it is magic. The night before you go upstairs to your bed and leave behind in the living room the unlit Christmas tree that has no presents underneath. Your empty Christmas stocking hangs from the doorknob of your bedroom door. You go to sleep with hope. The next morning around five in the morning you wake up to find your stocking filled with goodies; you hurry downstairs with your little sister to find the Christmas tree lit with stars; packages of every color surrounds it. You run and drag your exhausted parents out of bed (They probably only went to sleep two hours ago) and run back into the living room yelling, “Santa Claus was here!” What adult experience could ever come close to that? Except perhaps being a parent during this time. My father seemed as joyous as we were. Then one day, we didn’t come down. We’d gotten old enough to know that the presents would be there if we ran down the stairs at 5 or 9. “My father called up to us, “Hey! Aren’t you coming down? Santa Claus was here.” Growing up is hard for Fathers too. I think my most favorite thing about Christmas today, as an adult, is the music. It immediately brings me back to those long-ago days with my little sister.
Why is your featured book a must-read to get you in the holiday mood?
Because it shows two new lovers from different walks of life in a bus, enjoying Forty-Second Street’s Christmas decorations. They get off the bus and buy a tree and carry it home to Juliana’s town house in Greenwich Village. They are very excited to be celebrating Christmas together.
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon (US) gift card.
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US account to win.
Runs July 1 – 31
Drawing will be held on August 2.
Vanda wrote her first novel in eighth grade, with encouragement from her teacher, Mr. James Evers, who said, "My children will read your words." She went on to win an Edward Albee Fellowship and was a finalist for the National Lambda Literary Award. Vanda is currently writing a series of novels about LGBT modern history that is not for lgbtT folks only. These are books about people surviving and rising though some very difficult and dark days. However, they are not gloomy books. The characters are filled with spirit and lots of humor. Book 1 begins in 1941 and ends when the war is almost over in 1944. Book 2 runs from 1945-1955. Book 3 takes place in Paris in 1955-56 and Book IV covers January - August 1956 and Book V, part 1, covers the last of ’56 and goes into 1957. Book V, part 2, will finish out the 50s decade. The same characters mature and change throughout each book. Each of these books can be read as a standalone.
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