I’m delighted to welcome Cat Gardiner back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her latest novel, A Moment Forever. Cat is here to share an excerpt from the novel and has a fantastic giveaway for my readers. Please give Cat a warm welcome, and stay tuned for my review of A Moment Forever later this summer!
In the summer of 1992, a young writer is bequeathed the abandoned home of a great-uncle she never knew. The house has a romantic history and is unlike any home she has ever seen. Juliana Martel felt as though she stepped into a time capsule—a snapshot of 1942. The epic romance—and heartache—of the former occupant unfold through reading his wartime letters found in the attic, compelling her on a quest to construct the man. His life, as well as his sweetheart’s, during the Second World War were as mysterious as his disappearance in 1950.
Carrying her own pain inflicted by the abandonment of her mother and unexpected death of her father, Juliana embarks on a journalist’s dream to find her great-uncle and the woman he once loved. Inadvertently uncovering the carefully hidden events of his and others’ lives, she will ultimately change her own.
This story of undying love, born amidst the darkest era in modern history, unfolded on the breathtaking Gold Coast of Long Island in 1942. A Jewish, Army Air Forces pilot and an enchanting society debutante—young lovers—deception—and a moment in time that lasted forever.
Where did yesterday go? It’s hard to imagine that my own past is considered 20th Century historical nonfiction! It’s true! Those early years that I spent as a secretary, when I had learned to type 60 wpm on an IBM Selectric and took Gregg Shorthand dictation, were blips on a timeline, replaced by word processors and memo recorders. E-mail had been only a thought, and mobile phones were so large that they were in bags.
In this excerpt, I’d like to take you to our 1992 heroine, Juliana Martel, a junior style writer for the new fashion magazine, Allure. Following the discoveries made within her newly inherited home, she visits her editor with a fascinating proposal—a human interest article. Let’s take a look and see if she makes a convincing argument why a romance in 1942 is worth a second look in 1992.
“So, what brings you in to see me on this beautiful day?”
Juliana reached into her bag and removed the box, resting it at the edge of the desk. She noted Maxine’s piqued interest focusing at what was written along the sides of the pretty blue box in black, block letters that caused her to tilt her head to read, “William and Lizzy—My Dearest Darling.”
Juliana nervously chuckled. “Yes, and he’s the story I’d like to tell, but I need your help.”
Maxine tapped her Sharpie marker upon the desk and the slick images of Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford. “Do tell. Do tell.”
“It’s a World War Two love story.”
The editor dropped her marker, the creative wheels in her brain turned at the possibilities. “Oh yes, I can see it—in love with the clothing … the elegance even during the ration. Gloves, hats, half-moon manicures, no hosiery, and hand sewed garments. The return to the basics of beauty.”
Ten fisted fingers burst in punctuation. “Here’s your hook: How to obtain an effortless, stylish look on a shoestring budget! How to resemble an MGM starlet during the Golden Age of Hollywood and return to an era of feminine allure and mystique. Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake, and Brooklyn’s own Gene Tierney—the young bride of Oleg Cassini, fashion designer to the stars!”
Maxine’s voice rose with passionate excitement at the idea. “The hair! Oh the hair! Victory Rolls! All leading up to the pinnacle of post-war change in fashion: ‘The New Look’ by Dior. Yes! Ushering in short hair, cinched waists, full skirts, and luxurious fabrics in a romantic French explosion of sophisticated style. Julie—you are brilliant!”
Disheartened, Juliana responded with a slight grimace of embarrassment. “No, it’s not a fashion love story—it’s a human interest love story—an honest to goodness wartime romantic relationship—sweethearts.”
Maxine’s reply fell flat, deflated with the wind completely knocked out of her sails. “Oh.”
“I know it isn’t something we normally feature, but I’m sure this piece I’m working on could very well be an excellent F.O.B. An article such as this at the front of the magazine could segue into the feature well, covering your idea. I believe in the power of this story between this young couple and … and I intend on finding out what happened to them at the end of my research, which could very well mean a follow up feature story in another issue. Maybe during November for Veteran’s Day or on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle of Peleliu.”
“The battle of what? Julie, we’re a fashion magazine. The only battles we face are those of wrinkles and fat.” Maxine chuckled. “Well, so, I guess the Battle of the Bulge may well be an appropriate topic. Perhaps, we could compromise if you’re insistent on a World War Two hook.” She laughed at her joke. “Get it? Battle of the Bulge?”
Juliana shrugged a shoulder. She had never heard of the Battle of the Bulge.
Maxine slid June’s mock-up cover in front of her friend. “I’m sorry, hon, but see here … ‘Split-Second Beauty’, ‘Diet Doctor.’ Allure offers trends, cosmetics, fashion and hair, an insider’s guide to a woman’s image. That’s what we do. We try to make people feel good about themselves, and if they don’t we tell them how to do so. The closest we get to a love story is how to have an explosive orgasm or how to strip for your man in twelve easy to follow moves.”
Like her editor, Juliana simply replied, “Oh.”
Maxine opened the box and pulled out the thick stack of letters. “Is this your story?”
“Only the surface. The house I was given is at the heart of it. These are the wartime letters to my great-uncle from his girlfriend and his family. I’ve only read a couple, and they are starting to fill in tiny blanks. I’d like to travel to some of the places written on the pages and see if I can connect the dots about this fantastic, heartbreaking love affair. It’s a mystery of sorts.” Juliana swallowed hard. “I’d like to concentrate on this story, Max. It’s … it’s important to me.”
“Why do you assume it’s heartbreaking?”
“Because as far as I know, they never married, or … worse … she died. See why I have to know?”
Fanning the tied fifty-year old letters, the professional in Maxine couldn’t deny the appeal to uncover a good mystery not just for her magazine but for herself, too. Not to mention everyone loved a heart-tugging story about a veteran. She gazed up at Juliana’s stylish charcoal suit. “That pin you’re wearing, is it authentic?”
Juliana fingered the cool edge of William’s pilot wings secured below her shoulder. “Yes, they were William’s.” She raised an eyebrow. “Why? Are you interested? Is there something pulling you toward this story? You see it don’t you?”
“Perhaps.” Maxine slid a letter from the top of the stack and admired the fine penmanship. She ran her finger over the salutation. “This is lovely stationery. Expensive.” She thoughtfully sighed. “I fear the day when this ‘so called’ electronic mail Bill Gates talks about comes along. You’ll see, before long, no one will write letters or even pick up the telephone to say hello. I shudder at what we will become. Hmm … I shudder at what will become of the memory and stories of the Silent Generation.”
She held out the letter to her friend. “May I read it?”
A sly, knowing smile appeared on Juliana’s lips. “Sure, knock yourself out.”
“June 8, 1942
What a delightful surprise it was to receive your letter, especially since I was under the impression that you did not wish an acquaintance. I was sure you interpreted my letter as too forward, even—dare I say—pushy! I have been told, on occasion, that I can be quite relentless in getting my way, but in your case, I was prepared to accept that you weren’t interested. So, with a resounding YES, I would love to meet you at four o’clock, Saturday, June 13 beside the lion at the Public Library closest to 42nd Street! Just look for the girl with a beaming smile of anticipation, that’ll be me.
I am so excited about attending the New York at War Parade on the arm of such a dashing pilot. Are you sure your marching will have completed by then since the parade travels such a long way up Fifth Avenue? Rest assured, I will wait with bells on until your arrival downtown. My sister will be marching with the ARC. Perhaps, we can send your brother a snapshot should we get a glimpse of her. I am so proud of her, and I imagine you are just as proud of Louie. I’m looking forward to hearing any news you have about his destination. Oh, does that fall under ‘careless talk’? Never mind then.
My other sister, Kitty and I have embarked on quite the endeavor since we met you on Memorial Day. I bet you’ll be surprised to learn that we have officially begun a nylon stocking drive because you know how we debs just love our hosiery! Now if I can only get them to donate then I’ll really have something to boast about. However, I do think our other venture may be a bit more realistic. We have decided to volunteer for the Victory Book Campaign through our local library. These old homes around here must all have libraries filled with hundreds of unread, like-new books, and it is our hope to get our neighbors to part with them for the war effort. I plan on visiting our librarian, Mrs. Tinsdale to discuss our ideas. In a way, I feel as though it is my first real job interview, and I’m very excited!
I wonder, do you enjoy reading? I do. I find it a fantastic escape and now that the Zephyr is in the repair shop, I am thoroughly engrossed in an Agatha Christie novel. I simply adore crime, mystery, and suspense. Once, I stayed awake until the wee hours of the morning just to finish, “Murder on the Orient Express.” That was one of the most suspenseful books I have read.
Well, Lieutenant Ducky Shincracker, I look forward to a swell afternoon spent in your company. Thank you for your letter and the invitation for a date. Don’t worry about my travels into the city. I’ll be taking the 1:15 train from Glen Cove—see I do take public transportation! Ha! If you change your mind, which I sincerely hope you don’t but am sure you won’t (remember I’m an optimist,) my telephone number is ORiole-67126.
Maxine lowered the letter. “Ducky shincracker? Oh, I like her—a girl going after what she wants and she wants him. It sounds as though she’s trying to impress him. Any indication of his feelings for her? By the sound of it, he wasn’t too gung ho at first. Are any of his letters in this stack? It would be great if we can hear his voice.”
“I haven’t gone through them all. As far as I can see from the first few, they are mostly hers and placed in chronological order. I’d like to read them as such so I can experience the development of their relationship. I know how he felt about Lizzy. My uncle was head over heels in love. There is a shrine to her sitting on my fireplace mantle that I haven’t had the heart to remove.”
Thank you, Anna for hosting me and A Moment Forever on its blog tour. I am, once again, honored to visit with your readers. I’d love to hear some of their reflections on how things have changed in just the short time of 24 years. Is Maxine correct in her prophesying about the lost art of letter writing and communication? Have we lost something or are we more connected than ever? And what of Lizzy’s volunteering for the Victory Book Drive? Certainly technology and modern advances have changed how we read books and their ready accessibility, but what about for our servicemembers today?
I’d like to offer a special swag for Diary of an Eccentric domestic (U.S.) entries.
• One e-Book A Moment Forever
• Decorative vintage-style picture frame
• Bath & Body Works Paris lotion and shower gel
• Paris Decorative soap and box
• A Moment Forever bookmark
• Delft Blue swan
One A Moment Forever e-book for International entries
Giveaway details: To enter to win Cat’s generous giveaway, please leave a comment with your email address, let me know if you’re entering the U.S. or the international giveaway, and reflect on Cat’s questions about the lost art of letter writing. This giveaway will close on Sunday, June 26. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck, and as always, thanks for stopping by!
June 15: Austenesque Reviews (Interview)
June 17: Of Pens & Pages (Review)
June 18: Romantasy Through the Ages (Guest Post)
June 20: Diary of an Eccentric (Excerpt)
June 24: Savvy Verse & Wit (Guest Post)
July 29: Goodreads Sofa Chat w/ Sophia Rose
Aug. 3: True Book Addict (Guest Post)
Aug. 9: So Little Time… (Guest Post)
Aug. 11: Impressions in Ink (Review)
Aug. 16: The Calico Critic (Guest Post & Giveaway)
Aug. 23: Margie’s Must Reads (Review)
Aug. 29: Jorie Loves a Story (Review)
Aug. 30: Celticlady’s Book Reviews (Review)
Aug. 31: Jorie Loves a Story (Interview)
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