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Book Critique - Desolation Road (Torpedo Ink #4)

For reviews of all books in the series: Go here.

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: Definitely gorier and grittier than the previous series by Christine, yet with strong social elements that will make the reader plow through the plot.  However she takes it to next level with the erotic part of the story in this book.

Desolation Road is the fourth book in the Torpedo Ink Series by Christine Feehan published in June of 2020. The central plot revolves around Aleksei "Absinthe" Solokov - member of Torpedo Ink Motor Cycle (MC) Club and attorney for the Club - and Scarlet Foley - librarian at the local library. The plot picks up a few months after the previous book, Vendetta Road.

Torpedo Ink is the third series in the Sea Haven Novels – first set The Drake Sisters series and second set the Sisters of the Heart series - with stories revolving around the members of Torpedo Ink Motorcycle Club. The club consists of 18 men and women of the 287 who had survived the most brutal training schools in Russia. They form a family under the leadership of Victor "Czar" Prakenskii and, finally finding freedom on the road, belonging to their club. After years of doing undercover work to hunt the most cruel criminals, they find the town of Sea Haven where they settle and build for the first time a home for themselves, despite the enemies they still have to fight.

Aleksei "Absinthe" Solokov finds the librarian Scarlet Foley immensely attractive. They find surprising that each other have similar gifts and skills. But both their gifts come with a price; with a trail of past; and an overwhelming flood of emotions grabbing at them. Yet, when push comes to shove, both will have to work together in order to crush their past enemies, save the club and in the end save themselves. 

In Vendetta Road, Christine had Maestro and Storm discussing about finding the right woman for them just as Ice, Steele and Reaper have found. I presumed she would give us one of their stories. Instead she gives us Absinthe's. I am not complaining at all, since I had been waiting to read Absinthe's story since the second book, Vengeance Road.

In Vengeance Road, Christine gave us a brief history of Absinthe's older brother, Demyan, who was the last lost one before they all could escape. I was very much interested to see how Christine would spin for Absinthe that loss. Also the word "Absinthe" in itself intrigues me a lot - potent green-colored aniseed flavored alcoholic drink seems to be the right term for our Aleksei. And finally we get to read his story.

Absinthe's gifts come with a cost to him, but The Club needs his gifts. To get peace from the consequences of these gifts, he finds solace in books. And Christine gives his salvation also in the form of Scarlet, one who is equally in love with books, comes with her share of gifts that complement Absinthe and above all totally adores him to the point to indulge him in all his fantasies.

Scarlet is envisioned to exactly how Absinthe wants her to be. Even though she is ferocious in her nature when it comes to protecting or defending those she loves, she is a complete submissive with Absinthe, exactly how he wants his woman to be. This contrasting characters in Scarlet made her a bit difficult to understand until at least middle of the book.

A while ago when I met Christine Feehan in-person, one of my question to her was if she would base any of her stories in any of her series on India. She said she might but not sure when. However, since then I have been seeing bits and pieces of my birth country floating around her various books. In this as well, she has Absinthe studying Hindi language, an Indian language; and discusses with Solokov about other languages we have back in India.

I have commented several times that Christine uses words such as "obeyed"; "feel like god giving her pleasure"; "serve me"; "very proud of you for following my orders"; and many such words that either come across as degrading, humiliating or show total dominance of the male counterparts in the series, which made me cringe always. One of my pet peeve in her books was that inadvertently these words made the woman look more like a toy than human. Of course I know it is not intended that way. 

Finally in this book, she gives a detail explanation behind the usage of words; the dominance; and the total control over the woman for the man. She gives it to us through Absinthe, the way he was conditioned all those years in that brutal school; and how he explains every step of the way in the relationship he has with Scarlet. It made more sense now behind all that for me. 

Yet no matter how much I want to overlook those pieces of words, phrases or scenes, it left me with a taste of chill in the back of my throat. The total submissive nature of Scarlet and utter dominance of Absinthe rocked me. With this book Christine goes into the next level in her BDSM type of erotic practice and role-play between her lead pairs. 

I remember watching an episode in CSI in which the investigative team comes across a group of adults who practice role-playing, where the individual playing the role is of a furniture item. They would be bound together as a table lamp or a center table etc. I saw that episode a good 10 years ago, but I still cringe when those images flash behind my eyes.

So it was a little difficult to read the chapters where she has the BDSM and role-playing scenes for Scarlet and Absinthe, specially when my mind constantly thinks that Scarlet is being humiliated, while my reader's mind accepts it considering the history of the characters. 

Despite the goriness, explicit sexual content, Christine provides moments where you get tears in your eyes just reading the scene. She gives us a wedding; a family gathering of just the Club's members and their wives, whoever had; and also a training session for the kids. All these scenes make them more and more human to the reader's eyes even though they are fully aware that these characters are really bad ass and scary as hell. 

Surprisingly Christine has a lot of errors in this book compared to others. Normally her books are much better edited.

As before, the plot shows the dynamics of a Motorcycle Club, how they are striving to make a life for themselves, their family dynamics, club politics and their goal to weed out the bad. Now that I have read Absinthe's story, can't wait to read about Code, Alena and Savage sooner than others. I do hope it is Savage that Christine picks next, since he is getting really close to the edge more and more as the series progresses.

Again a very gritty and gorier plot with a lot of f-bombs and open nudity that I still cringe reading sometimes. There is sexual role-play involved with a solid meat to the story with regards to developing the characters, giving them a purpose as well as giving a solid ground for the lead pair. Christine still has a strong back to her plot and does not leave it just as an erotic story. Yet, I would tread it cautiously and judge the series one book at a time. 

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot Reveals:

a. The Club is looking to find a manager for Inez's store in Casper. Perhaps a possible pairing for future books?

b. People who Scarlet consider close to family  - Josefa Diaz, rescued from a human trafficking ring and sent to Chile; Tom, 16-year old kid being coached by her after school, born deaf still has problems with hearing even after operation; 16-year old Joan Miller, her brother Luke, mom Brenda & housekeeper Alison.

c. Scarlet connects with Savage psychically in this plot.

d. Scarlet was helped by five women - A female lawyer in getting her released from jail; and continue to aid her when her pas comes at her again and again; And Four Women in jail who helped her find the right contacts to learn skills. Will these five women come back in future as potential partners for the other brothers? 

2. Sub- Plots:

a. Stories from The Sisters of the Heart Series:

i. A misunderstanding between Ilya, Lev and Viktor Prakenskii is shown in Bound Together (Sisters of the Heart #6). Waiting for Christine to resolve it.

ii. Four orphans - 3 girls (Lucia, Nicia and Siena) and 1 boy (Benito) - saved from the human trafficking ring are adopted by Arianna and Maxim Prakenskii in Air Bound.

iii. People from Sea Haven - Inez Nelson, owns the grocery store in Sea Haven, and in Casper in partnership with The Club; Donny Ruttermyer, works for Inez at the store; 

b. Stories from The Torpedo Ink Series:

i. Viktor "Czar" and Blythe Prakinskii adopt several children over the course of the series - Darby Henessey, Zoe Henessey, Emily Henessey and Kenny in Bound Together; and Jimmy in Vendetta Road

ii. Twenty-five members from the school that Gavriil had gone to, join the Torpedo Ink Motorcycle Club chapter for the Trinity area, in Vengeance Road. In Vendetta Road, another smaller club is interesting to join Torpedo Ink.

iii. Lucia “Code “ Litvin, the Treasurer of the club, has a friend who is a hacker calling herself “Cat” since Judgment Road.

iv. Story brewing between Alena "Torch" Koval and Pierce since Judgment Road. Curious to see how Christine will approach their story since Alena is also a fully patched member of their Club while it is not accepted in Pierce's Club.  She also plans to open a restaurant since Judgement Road. In this book, she has shared history with Rurik.

v. More survivors from brutal Russian Schools we see in this book: Rurik Volkov aka Razrushitel "Destroyer", loses his sister but had traded his soul for someone else, is voted to formally to join Torpedo Ink Club; Adrik Orlov, went to Garviil's school, trained Scarlet in various skills; heads back to Thailand.

vi. Still makes me wonder though how did Christine come up with the number 17 for this series. A question I would like to ask next time I get an opportunity.

c. Prospects and extended members of the Torpedo Ink:

i. Fatei; Glitch; Hyde, Hitch

ii. Harry Bannister, a 60 year old independent biker, stays in the apartment over the Club's bar.

iii. Until Vendetta Road, there were only three Prospects - Fatei, Glitch and Hyde. But in that book she introduced Hitch. Is it Glitch mis-spelt as Hitch? Or is he indeed a new prospect?

d. Newer enemies and threats that the Torpedo Ink Club face:

i. The remaining members of the Swords Motorcycle Club after their leader Evan Shackler-Grastos killed by Drake Sisters, Sisters of the Heart and their husbands, the Prakenskii brothers and the Torpedo Ink Club. 

ii. In Bound Together, it is revealed that Viktor's notes to his brothers never reached them and also all their tapes from the tortures they suffered at the hands of Uri and Kostya Sorbacov are missing.

iii. In Judgment Road, a Ghost Club is introduced who use the same torturing methods that the Russian schools inflected on the Club members. Members - Louis Levasseur; 

iv. In Vendetta Road, the Club comes across Collector, who finds families that have no other relatives, kill the parents, kidnap the kids and sell them to an organization headed by a Russian, where the kids are auctioned off for making "snuff" movies. A loose end, Terrance Marshall, misses from underneath the Club's hands. They also come across another ring of con-artists who lure rich lonely women, marry them and kill them after for the inheritance. They are connected to the pedophile ring.

v. Sword Security - group of assassins trained at the Russian brutal schools are aligning themselves with The Ghosts and the Russian running the pedophile ring. 

e. Other Motor Cycle Clubs:

i. Diamondbacks - headed by Plank; Members: Terry "Judge" Partridge & his old lady Theresa; Pierce, Road Captain or Enforcer (??); Trade;

ii. Venomous - hired by Holden's security team when needed to use them as enforcers. They rent a strip club from Haley Joico. Members: Iron, Sergeant in Arms; 

iii. Twisted Steel - Holden Sr. gives them a contract too to hunt down Scarlet. In Vendetta Road, inadvertently Ice and Solei have Stallion, a member from Twisted Steel Club, fixated on her. No closure was given to him in that book.

3. Grammatical / Character / Location / Geographical / Historical / Mythological Errors:

a. In the promo video for Judgment Road, the first book in the series, it is mentioned that 287 children were taken and only 18 survived, forced into abuse to turn into assassins in Russia. She even confirms the same in this current book. But in the trailer for this book, it is mentioned that there were 289 children and 19 survived. Where did the extra two children who were taken came from? And who was the additional one person who survived? Or is she considering Demyan, Absinthe's brother as a survivor too even though he is dead? She did mention on FB that she had decided to name Alena's restaurant as Crow287 in her upcoming book, Reckless Road, based on several suggestions from readers - Crow to honor their crow tattoos and colors; 287 for all the children who had been taken. So looks like the error is in the promo video of Desolation Road itself. So is it just a typo in the promo video?

Promo video of Judgment Road:

Promo video for Desolation Road: 

b. On Pg. 27, Line 1, it should be "…I'm quoting a…"

c. On Pg. 145, Line 4, it should be "…That would be Robert…"

d. On Pg. 183, Line 14, shouldn’t it be "…he was just turning…"?

e. On Pg. 293, Absinthe puts on a ruby-studded collar with leash on Scarlet in their kitten-master roleplay. However, On Pg. 301, after the sex, when Absinthe takes Scarlet back to the bathroom for a bath, no where Feehan mentions that he removes the collar, although he does remove her tail, stockings and clamps. And immediately on Pg. 302, Feehan has Absinthe put back the ruby-studded collar on to Scarlet. If he had not removed it in the first place, how is he putting it back on again?

f. On Pg. 301, Line 3, it should be "…Are you hurt…"

g. On Pg. 316, Line 18, it should be "…belt in his hands…"

h. On Pg. 397, Feehan has Absinthe put three orange spice desert balls inside of Scarlet, but in the following scene, she has Absinthe pull out only three and eat. He doesn’t pull out the third one before he has sex with her. Isnt it dangerous to leave food inside one's body? 

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