Book Review: Juliana (Volume 1: 1941-1944) by Vanda

Juliana: Volume 1: 1941-1944

Title: Juliana

Author: Vanda

Publisher: New Sands Studio Press

Date of publication: May 28th, 2016

Genre: Historical Fiction, GLBT

Number of pages: 468

Series: Yes but is being shown as Volume’s

Juliana (Volume 1: 1941- 1944) – Book 1

Standalone: Yes

POV: 1st person

Where you can find this book: Amazon

Goodreads synopsis:

Alice “Al” Huffman comes from the potato fields of Long Island with her beau, her best girlfriend and her girlfriend’s beau to make it on the Broadway stage only to find she has no talent. On the kids’ first day in New York City, they meet Maxwell P. Hartwell III, a failed nightclub owner, and Broadway producer, who, according to Al, looks a little like Clark Gable. He invites them to a nightclub where Al hears Juliana, the glamorous, perpetually on the brink of stardom nightclub singer, sing for the first time. Al is instantly drawn to her and seeks her out. Juliana, a sexual risk-taker, easily reels in the mesmerized Al.

Al is increasingly pulled into a secret gay underworld of men who wear dresses and women who smoke cigars, while her childhood friends continue in their “normal” lives. Al glides easily between the two worlds until these worlds begin to collide.

My review:

This book fooled me. I honestly thought, by reading the blurb, that it was going to just be a book on what it was like to be gay/lesbian during the early to mid-1940s. Which it does in a stunning way. But, this book also about a young girl finding herself and falling in love in a time that was turbulent. And I loved it.

I absolutely loved Alice (Al). Her transformation from this naive little country girl too, what one character called her, a New York girl was amazing. Her acceptance of the gay/lesbian scene and later on, of her own sexuality was brutally honest for that time period. Also brutally honest was how people perceived gays/lesbians during that time. Several scenes (Al finding out that Danny was having an affair with Max, Al being told about Shirl’s beating and rape, meeting Andy and the heartbreaking end to Al and Aggie’s friendship) outlined that.

Her relationship with Juliana was bittersweet. Al was in love with Juliana and Juliana, well, she considered Al one of her conquests. Al was warned about Juliana from several people (Max, Victoria, Shirl) but still sought her out. Even Juliana warned Al about falling for her. Of course, Al doesn’t listen to anyone and ends up losing her heart.

The sex scenes were very tastefully done and the author always ended the chapter before it got too graphic.

The end of the book was great and I loved the twist at the very end. I also loved that with the way the book ended, you knew that there would be a Volume 2. That is something that I cannot wait to read!!!

The afterwords from the author were great. She explained why she wrote the book, why she chose the 1940’s, went into the gay scene in the late 1920s-1930s in Greenwich Village, what it was like in the 1940s for gays/lesbians, and gave a detailed account from a woman who had homosexual friends in the 1940s. She also included a glossary of sorts of terms for gay/lesbian in the 1940’s….which answered a few questions I had while reading.  Take for instance the term “beard”. In that time period, it was used to describe a woman who posed as a girlfriend or wife for a gay man so his homosexuality was not revealed. She also included a complete list of references that she used while writing the book and a guide if a book club would discuss it.

How many stars will I give Juliana: 5

Why: A great read about a girl coming of age in NYC and finding herself and love while there.

Will I reread: Yes

Will I recommend to family and friends: Yes

Age range: Adult

Why: Sex and some violence

**I received a free copy of this book and volunteered to review it**