Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds:

It’s been a while since a book got under my skin so quickly. The excitability, the hope, the determination and the vulnerability of youth are beautifully depict in our heroine Al/ Alice and in the friends around her who join her to make a go at their acting and writing careers in New York.  Naïve country pumpkins that they are, they possess something else, some spirit that captures the reader as much as it captures Max, the theatre producer who is willing to take them under their wings.
I trembled with the four youngsters as they get to find out whether Max is in fact someone they can trust.
All the while the author shows us the aftermath of the big depression. This focus on America before and during the war without the usual excessive foreboding of WW2 was refreshing to me as European. As gay man I was particularly interested in the life of gay characters during that period and found this exceedingly well done.
The biggest achievement however has to be the chemistry between the two lovers, Al and Julianna. Not everything that goes on between them always makes perfect sense, but so is the nature of forbidden and dangerous love. I found the tension between them, the erotic sparks seriously breath taking.
With many sub plots and side characters involved this is a rich and rewarding read that I shall treasure and re-read again. Very well done.

Blurb / editorial:

“An Absolutely Beautiful and Moving Novel!”
–Philip Crawford, author of Mafia and the Gays
Readers say, “I can’t wait for the next book in the series.”

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.


I was born and raised in Huntington Station, Long Island, but my mother would never let us call it that. She said we came from South Huntington. Saying we were from Huntington Station, according to my mother, made it sound like we came from the other side of the tracks. And, well, Mom, we did and that fact has greatly influenced my writing.

My novel, JULIANA (Vol. 1: 1941-1944) is the first in a series in which the same characters live out LGBT history in New York City through the decades.

As a playwright I have received a number honors, among them an Edward Albee Fellowship. My play, Vile Affections, published by Original Works was a finalist for a National Lambda Award. My play, Patient HM, which later became The Forgetting Curve, won the Pride Stage and Screen’s Women’s Playwriting Award and another play, Why’d Ya Make Me Wear This, Joe, won Celebration Theater’s (where Naked Boys Singing originated) Best New LGBT Play.

My non-fiction story, “Jack,” was published in Prairie Schooner and another non-fiction piece, “Roger: Lost Between Philosophies,” which appears in Pentimento was selected by New Millennium Writings for Honorable Mention from a submission pool of 1,300.