In 1930s Chicago, a troubled psychoanalyst and her tormented young patient pursue an unethical affair. In the shadows of an underground fetish club, their dark eroticism exposes the raw edges of desire.
Secrets of the Velvet Trap is a Depression-era, slow-burn psychological drama about the turbulent relationship between Dr. Eleanor Wentworth, a radical psychoanalyst, and her patient, Edith “Eddie” Langley, a young reporter. With her compulsion for broken women, Eleanor finds herself inexorably drawn in by Eddie’s wounded sexuality, and their professional relationship evolves into a passionate affair.
Dr. Victor Stahl, Eleanor’s own analyst and mentor, guides her through her ethical challenges. Vivian Moreau, Eleanor’s oldest friend and charismatic owner of the Velvet Trap, provides a sanctuary for Chicago’s unconventional and deviant, which includes Eddie. Violet, Vivian’s married girlfriend, provides Eddie with camaraderie as they both navigate lives hidden from their Catholic families.
As Eleanor and Eddie’s affair deepens, Eleanor struggles with professional and marital fall-out, even as she uncovers a devastating reality about Eddie’s past. Meanwhile, Eddie develops a story about underground Chicago, hoping to enlighten a world that criminalizes deviance. Through astute management and alliances, Vivian has kept the clandestine club thriving, but she must manage Eddie’s well-meaning ambition or risk losing everything.
“Secrets of the Velvet Trap” explores moral ambiguity, the drive for authenticity, and the blind embrace of desire, illustrating the enduring power of human connection.
MAIN CHARACTERS & RELATIONSHIPS
Dr. Eleanor Wentworth: A middle-aged psychoanalyst from an affluent family, residing in Hyde Park, Chicago. She’s bisexual and in an open marriage. She has a brilliant, analytical mind and a refined aesthetic sensibility.
Edith “Eddie” Langley: Curiosity and belligerence serve her well as a junior reporter for the Daily News. She comes from a devout Catholic family but defies gender norms. She’s a talented storyteller and a deeply closeted sexual deviant who frequents the Velvet Trap.
Dr. Victor Stahl: A founding member of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis and an orthodox Freudian. He’s been Eleanor’s analyst and mentor for years and manages a complex paternal transference-countertransference with her.
Vivian Moreau: The owner of the Velvet Trap, known for her striking appearance and boldness. Vivian and Eleanor have been friends since childhood and can be radically honest with each other. As an experienced figure in the underground scene, Vivian is protective of Eddie. Vivian has maintained an open affair with Violet for years. See Tales From the Velvet Trap.
Violet Sinclair: A young woman from Chicago’s Gold Coast, torn between her privileged married life and her love for Vivian. Violet and Eleanor connect through the challenges they each face as married women in love with women. Violet shares a bond with Eddie through their religious upbringing and their connections to the Velvet Trap.
Dr. Charles “Charlie” Beaumont: Eleanor’s husband, a skilled surgeon from a well-known medical family. Charlie and Eleanor are both bisexual and have an open marriage.
Eleanor and Eddie’s Relationship: The central plot explores the dynamic between Eleanor and Eddie, initially formed within their therapist-patient relationship. Eleanor, captivated by Eddie’s sexual complexities, finds herself in an ethical and emotional struggle as their professional relationship evolves into an affair.
Eddie’s Sexual Dysfunctions, Revelations, and Resolutions (Subplot 1): Eddie grapples with intimacy issues rooted in a traumatic childhood experience. Eleanor believes the shame of the event, along with the lack of parental support, left lasting trauma. As their relationship deepens, it’s revealed something much darker happened.
Eleanor and Victor (Subplot 2): Eleanor’s own therapy sessions with Victor offer a reflective counterpoint to her relationship with Eddie. Victor is a metronome of reason and principle, while Eleanor fluctuates between rationalizing and embracing radical ideas. These sessions provide insight into Eleanor’s morally ambiguous motivations and the evolution of psychoanalysis in its second generation.
Eddie’s Story (Subplot 3): As a young person seeing the devastation of the Depression and experiencing her own deviance from society’s norms, Eddie is intrigued by “social realism,” which seeks to critique power structures and drives the creators of the age. She develops a story about the underground fetish community, of which she is part, and discovers the risk when personal and professional lives intersect.
Moral Ambiguity: The serial navigates forbidden and unethical relationships motivated by empathy and exploitation.
Dark Eroticism: The serial explores the shadow side of human desire, where the emotional intensity is as significant as the physical aspect. In the context of historical fiction, sexual deviance adds layers of meaning to the power dynamics and taboo relationships.
Search for Authenticity: Characters struggle with acting authentically in a punitive society and when parsing their lives between the personal and the professional.
Released as a serial novel at Tantalizing Tales.
Content Warning: This serial novel contains references to childhood trauma.