"Henry and James (and their wives Clara and Kitty) are neighbors in DC in the early 1950's; Henry is a doctor and James is a lecturer at FBI headquarters in Quantico. A glance across a crowded room, and one drunken kiss in the garage, and Henry and James fall in love, starting an affair full of stolen moments and one heart-achingly tender weekend away at a cabin. When they are together, they talk of those mundane everyday moments married couples take for granted - making coffee every morning for the one you love, quiet evenings together, the joy of sleeping next to each other. But in the early 1950's when homosexuality was illegal, having the chance to realize those dreams seems impossible.
As an emigrant from Lithuania in post WWII America, Henry is used to the suspicions of being un-American. But when Truman signs Executive Order 10450 allowing federal employees to be investigated to determine whether they posed security risks, i.e. "Any criminal, infamous, dishonest, immoral, or notoriously disgraceful conduct, habitual use of intoxicants to excess, drug addiction, or sexual perversion" suddenly James finds himself investigation. After a perfect storm of problems (James has been asked to resign and Kitty tells him something that will change their lives forever), James checks himself into St. Elizabeth's hospital in an effort to rid himself of this "sickness." Google "Doctor Walter Freeman" if you want to be horrified, disgusted and sick to your soul about what was done in the guise of "curing" homosexuality.
I don't want to spoil too much of this story for you, but ... have faith. This story is not one of loss and sorrow, but one of joy, reconciliation and incredible love that "always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres" (I Corinthans 13:7). And I love how Clara and Kitty are full-realized characters; Pragmatic Clara and Kitty who wanted to become a poet. The writing is simply beautiful throughout, but I particularly love this image of Kitty:
Henry stands in kind, watching as Kitty settles back into the self she presents to the world to satisfy what it wishes to see in her. A housewife, a caretaker, well-kept and put-together, unharried and unstressed, rather than a poet, a friend, whose insights and curiosities span far beyond clipping coupons and cleaning house.
I've done it - proclaimed "I loved this book" when a story hits my funny bone just right, or after reading the perfect book for that particular moment. And then when a truly amazing book comes along, I want to say "wait, wait ... yes, okay, yes, that other book was 5 stars, but this one is ten stars, a hundred stars, heck, all the stars!" The Unmentionables is beautifully written, horrifyingly sad at points and ultimately so very satisfying. This story has haunted me since I read it. I highly recommend it and would give it "all the stars." - CrabbyPatty (The Unmentionables)
"Wow! What an emotional roller coaster. Set in the 1950's during the era of McCarthyism, James and Henry, fall in love. Both are married but live for the times they can be together. Henry is under suspicion by the government because he is an immigrant. James works for the FBI but when they decide they must interview all their employees, the stress becomes too much for James and he has a breakdown and ends up in a psych hospital. When Henry finds out, he does what he must to get James out before permanent damage is done. As James heals, things come to a head with their wives and the men are left with only each other.
This was one fantastic story. Tightly written, the tension of that time comes through as you did not know who to trust. I was on the edge of my seat caught up in the story. I loved Henry and James. They are opposites of each other but devoted to one another. Their futures were different than what they ever anticipated but they were pioneers at that time. Courageous, strong, devoted men. I wanted everything to turn out well. I would also like to see more into their futures to see how their story ends. Well done!" - Sheila (The Unmentionables)
"This is not a comfortable read. There, I said it. But it's a pretty incredible love story and day-um, did it ever grab me.
This takes place in the 1950 in the US and it's a gay love story in the shadow of the McCarthy era. That alone should indicate that there are few hearts and flowers in the story itself because that was a dark, dark age for gay people. It has more than a few heart-stopping moments but succeeds on the strength of its characters.
Firstly, the MCs are deeply, helplessly in love and it is quite heart-wrenching to watch them survive on the few stolen moments they get together in the beginning. At first I was a bit sceptical because the sort of make-believe world they sometimes create for themselves seems almost child-like but as we enter the grim reality of their lives, it becomes apparent how necessary these fantasies are. This is all the more chilling as the authors did their research and do not indulge in the magically-gay-ok a lot of other writers of historicals indulge in. Their situation is bleak but ultimately they get to a place where hope is possible and giving up is not an option. I'm not sure I would call it a HEA but then again I'm not sure I would call this book a romance. It's a love story, that much is very, very true but it is also queer history.
Secondly, there are the wives. Yep. The wives because both MCs are married when they meet but lo and behold! They are not harpies! They are not harridans! They are highly intelligent, fully fleshed characters who are complex in their reactions. This is so wonderful because all the participants in this tale are in one way or the other victims of circumstance but still agents of their own lives. Hooray!
The writing has a certain old-fashioned feeling to it which may, or may not sometimes bumble into purplish territory but that's fine. It fits the mood and it fits the book.
So. This book is not ending up on my comfort-reads shelf any time soon but it's very highly recommended." - WhatAStrangeDuck (The Unmentionables)
"[...] the romance between the two main characters absolutely shines. Their interactions are the heart and soul of this book and if you’re looking for a heartbreakingly beautiful romance full of the elegant turns of phrase that Prozorova and McFerren are so skilled at, you’ll find it here.
I was also very impressed with its willingness to explore the consequences that affairs have on marriages, rather than resorting to the old fanfic trope of “Oh, they have wives? Let’s just . . . scoot those wives off to the side. Into the fridge, yeah, lets put them there.” Both of the wives are fully fleshed-out as characters, something which I would be downright shocked to see in most “illicit affair” novels, and both become just as compelling as Henry and James.
The Unmentionables is also very well done as a historical novel, taking place as it does during the rarely discussed Lavender Scare in the 1950’s, an equivalent to the Red Scare, in which the US government was systematically purging its branches of lesbians and gay men. Anyone not considered “reliable, trustworthy, of good conduct and character, and of complete and unswerving loyalty to the United States,” was dismissed.
In the end, I really don’t have enough good things to say about this book. While making an effort not to spoil anything, I’ll say it definitely wrapped up in a satisfying way.
It makes for heavy reading at times, (most of the time,) and delves into some of the horrific elements of 1950’s America that some people would prefer to have swept under the rug. But if you’re looking for an intensely romantic novel with a pair of unforgettable main characters and a good dose of angst, you really can’t go wrong with this one." - Annika (ARC review of The Unmentionables)
"I haven’t read any short stories quite like this one. Because it’s a short story there’s really not much time to give any character background or development. However, I thought the authors did a good job of letting us know that Vance was an egotistical a-hole and that Ethan won’t be a doormat.
After Vance thoroughly humiliates Ethan he soon realizes how badly he behaved and becomes quite contrite. Sparks begin to fly and the two finally give in to their lust for each other.
I enjoyed this story for what it was – a rather short vignette about two people who really have nothing at all in common. There were a few pretty hot scenes and over all I found this a quite enjoyable well written short piece." - ButtonsMom2003 (review for Bespoke)
"A wealthy doctor loses his luggage at Thiefrow [sic] and orders a bespoke suit from an inconsequential tailor in a small shop in the general vicinity of the conference the doctor is attending. The tailor is an artist, and as such he sees what is needed and begins his masterpiece. The doctor is not pleased, and as if it were a pastiche of the plot of Eugene Onegin, the doctor rejects the suit, only to realize later it (and the tailor who made it) are his true loves.
It is easy to describe the process of making art when the art being made is painting or sculpture. We know what Michelangelo went through to create his David. But it is actually far more illuminating to see this process when the art being created is unusual, in this case a bespoke suit. Bespoke suits are not necessarily art -- they are merely bespoke. This, however, is the David of bespoke suits: timeless and immediate, painfully beautiful.
I loved this short and focused story." - Anonymous (review for Bespoke)
"Though short, the tale feels welcomely [sic] close to eerie to start due to the era. This is then alleviated thus by the desperately intimate love both Ian and Everett shared. Partial to the loneliness and excitement of them both, even in those times." - Sven Z (review for Urgent Train Message: Immediate Delivery)
"Emotional. That’s Vel’s writing in a single word, but that really doesn’t do it justice. I’ve wept, I’ve grinned, and I’ve been so struck by the beauty of his prose that I’ve reread some pieces three or four times in a row. Each story I’ve had the pleasure of reading is built on a foundation of raw honesty; there’s pieces of him, and his experiences throughout everything he writes. Sometimes his writing is heartbreaking, sometimes it’s charming, but all the time it’s thought-provoking and achingly genuine.
A piece I really connected with was ‘Usefulness’ in issue three of Polychrome Ink. As someone who is part of the S&M subculture, it was a beautiful thing to read something that captured what I’ve felt by putting feelings similar to mine in the spotlight in a meaningful and respectful way. To be able to read about parts of oneself that are often considered taboo, in a story where said parts are accepted, encouraged, and even celebrated? What a lovely moment in time.
Every word of Vel’s should be read and hoarded and loved, I genuinely recommend it all.” - Staci Rodgers (review for body of work)
"Whether it is transformative works or original works, Vel’s voice and style come through loud and clear. The characters do not speak like robots or hooligans at a soccer meet. They speak like anyone you would chance on the street and could sit down to tea with to while away an afternoon. Or like someone you thought only lived in your nightmares.
The situations they find themselves in, even the more fantastical ones, still ring with a believable authenticity that leaves you hoping (or dreading) “could this happen to me?”.
You will be swept away. You will laugh and cry, rage and curse. You will feel.
And then you'll be eager to do it all over again." - Stephanie Anne (review for body of work)
"One of my dearest friends and an author I admire in every respect, great integrity and indomitable talent. Vel's writings always have my heart at war between arousal, melancholy and pure rapture. Vel is also one of those rare, kind souls who if he sees another author struggling will do everything in her power to nudge them across that finish line. Competition has no place with him, just compassion." - Catherine Winther (catherinewinther.com) (review for body of work)