Release launch/Blog Tour: Ember Rachel Van Dyken

Ember (Eagle Elite #5)
Rachel Van Dyken

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I am a Killer. A Rapist. A Monster.
I know only pain and survival.
That is until the Cappo's sister walked into my life.
And changed everything.

She's a light who makes my darkness darker, her smile makes my heart turn to ice, and I can't escape the fear her seductive looks instill--knowing it's only a matter of time before I fail--again, and take her for myself.

This is the story of my redemption.
But it's not pretty...I died, and now I'm alive, but not living, breathing but not surviving. I am Phoenix De Lange, son to a murdered mob boss, estranged brother, horrible friend, monster in the making, newest leader to one of the most powerful families in the Cosa Nostra.
And I will have my vengeance.
Or die trying.
I am Phoenix De Lange.
Death is all I know.

Until she offers me a piece of life--I can't resist taking.

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I wasn’t sure how to act. Wasn’t sure if I should apologize for attacking him or thank him for not laughing in my face. Embarrassed and irritated that he was most likely going to ignore whatever it was between us even if it killed him, I stared hard at the cement floor.
“How are you feeling, little girl?”
“I’m not little.”
“You want me to call you fat?”
“No.” I lifted my head. “Call me gorgeous like you did last night.”
“Well, shit.” Phoenix ran his hands over his face then grabbed my arm and dragged me down the hall into a darkened corner. “You remember?”
“You kissed me.”
“Prove it.”
“What’s wrong with you?” I pushed against his chest. “You like me! Admit it!”
Phoenix made a face. “You were drunk, launched yourself at me, and I caught you. Did we kiss?” His eyes went completely black. “Yeah, we did, but it meant nothing.”
“Really.” He hissed out a breath through his teeth.
“Prove it.”
I pushed him against the wall. “Prove it meant nothing. Let me kiss you now, and if it meant nothing it will be like… what? Kissing your sister.”
“I’ve sworn off women.”
“So this should be an easy test then, right?”
“Bee…” Phoenix’s face was pained, as if I was holding a gun to his head rather than offering to kiss him. Was the idea so abhorrent? “Please…” His voice had a pleading tone I’d never heard before. “Don’t do this.”
“One. Little. Test.” I rose up on my tip toes and kissed him full on the mouth.
His lips refused to move against mine.
I wrapped my arms around his neck.
He stiffened even more.
Irritated, I bit his lower lip. He gasped, and I slid my tongue inside his mouth. He pushed me away with a curse then wiped his lips. “Done. Your little test is done. I didn’t respond. Happy now?”
His eyes were furious; the blue flashed like lightning against his skin. His fingertips shook as he made a fist.
“You like me.”
“Bee…” Phoenix pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingertips. “…find someone your own age, someone who’s interested in you in the way you deserve, alright?” His tone was gentle, and maybe that was what hurt the most.
It was like he was letting me down slowly, hoping I didn’t break.
But the joke was on him.
Because I was already broken.
I didn’t want boys my age — I wanted him.
“You’re a good liar.” My eyes narrowed. “And you’re lucky I’m patient.”
“Lucky?” He sputtered out a laugh. “That you like toying with me?”
“No, lucky that even though you constantly push me away…I keep coming back for more. But, Phoenix… everyone’s time eventually runs out.”
“Go to breakfast, Bee.”
“Go to hell, Phoenix.”

Phoenix DeLange and Bianka (Bee) Campisi...a match made in Heaven or Hell. The newly appointed head of the Nicolasi family and the Cappo's little sister. Two lonely, damaged people from dark, violent homes. They both have demons and are lacking connections. Bee just wants to be close to Phoenix even if it is just a as a friend, but she really wants more.  But Phoenix is supposed to be guarding her and not touching her. And responding to his attraction could literally get him killed. So it is easier to avoid, deny, reject, and taunt her to try to push her away.

Nobody wanted the monster to get the girl--that wasn't how stories were told, that was not how happy endings were found. I deserved my darkness, and only a truly selfish individual would be all right with tugging the innocent into hell with them, She was heaven. She was light. And damn if I wasn't going to everything in my power to keep it that way.

His past with women is horrific. He knows he has done wrong and is capable of violence. It is what he was taught and all he's ever known. His nightmares and demons have a tight hold on him. But he does not want to be the monster he thinks he is, and he does not want to hurt Bee. But he can't stop the fact that she makes him feel and takes away the numbness he has been living in. But he is not safe for her and he knows it.

"I don't do warm fuzzies....I do scorching blazes...That sear you alive."

Bee has a funny, sparkling personality and exuberance for life. Now that she has more freedom, she just wants friends, to belong, and Phoenix. But at Eagle Elite people are either scared of her connections or out to manipulate her. And Phoenix has his hands full protecting her from others, and himself from her charms.

"You are everything that's beautiful and pure in this world, and you deserve so much better than this life, than what any of us have to offer. Than what I have to offer."

Phoenix struggles broke my heart. He was so crippled by his dark past and truly felt like was a monster, unworthy, uncontrolled, unlovable, and unable to be saved. And Bee brought little shafts of light into his dark existence.  but he felt he darkened her, Not to mention the fact he was treading on this ice with her dangerous brother and the other bosses and families, and one wrong move could really end him. But I felt for him and his pain. He had such internal struggles between what was right and wrong in the situation.

Push, pull, hurt, rejection, need, resistance, fear, secrets, and guilt. Bee and Phoenix are one big complicated mess. But I loved them together. Phoenix was so deep into himself and wallowing in his guilt that he really was just existing and not living. And Bee was the type of personality that just kept pushing until she could find a crack in his armor to get in. And she was the only one that really saw him for his potential and not for who he was in the past.

As with any Eagle Elite book there is drama, bloodshed, danger, secrets, suspense, and betrayal. The plot line draws you in, keeps you guessing, and throws in all kinds of twists and surprises. It is told in Phoenix, Bee, and Sergio's points of view. It is hard to determine who can be trusted and who can't. No one of them is really all good or all bad, they are all a mixture of each teetering farther towards the bad side. But despite the violence, crime, and dirty deeds, they fiercely protect those they care about and love hard. I loved getting to spend time with all of the couples: Nixon and Trace, Chase and Mil, Tex and Mo, and the other family members Frank and Sergio. They add humor, tension, and drama to an already intense situation. I love that they are family and friends, yet not afraid to shoot or beat the crap out of each other if they deem it is needed.

Sergio also is a big part of this story line and he has his own issues going on that seem to get more and more complicated. Including a new girl who comes with her own set of issues. His book Elude was set up and I cannot wait for more of their story.

This is a story of loss, pain, self hate, guilt, love, hope, second chances, and redemption. I never really liked Phoenix in the beginning, and his reappearance intrigued me in the last couple of books. But in this one, he wormed his way right into my heart like only truly broken characters seeking redemption can. I was not sure Rachel Van Dyken would be able to pull it off, but she did an amazing job with his story. I think Phoenix and Bee have become my new favorite Mafia couple.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Ember picks up the story of the five mob families associated with Eagle Elite and moves it far further than I could have imagined. There were bits and pieces that reminded me just how intricately developed this whole series has been from the beginning. Favors owed, histories shared, webs woven and dropped to catch the individual players, and even the continuation of plans and deals put into place by characters who have since died.

Phoenix De Lange is haunted by the things he’s done in the name of his family. But he is in the perilous position of taking over the Nicolasi Family without sharing their blood. Everyone in his life knows exactly what he did to lose favor with Nixon and the other bosses, and what he did to his blood family. Everyone except Bee Campisi, newly arrived in the US to get to know her estranged brother, Tex.

Now, charged with protecting Bee, Phoenix is facing every one of his nightmares on a daily basis. But what he begins to realize is that his nightmares are actually fading as he allows the feisty, persistent girl he is shadowing to get closer to him.
Before I started the book, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get past Phoenix’s past. He was so easy to hate in Elite, and even though his actions later led to Trace and Nix forgiving him, he still left me feeling a little ill with the thought that he would be the “hero” here and I would have to figure out a way to like him. But it didn’t take being in his head for very long for me to forget my initial hesitation in finding a fondness for him. His was also not a quick transformation. He has been living in a numb, deadened state for so long that even he didn’t know how to act once he began feeling things again.

Bee was continually a bubbly persona, even as she battled self-confidence, and an insecurity born of her secluded and fearful childhood. Even as Phoenix had a personal journey to go through, Bee was forced to make a similar journey to figure out how to be a part of a family and community so unlike the one she was raised in. And her desire to fit in screamed loud and clear even as she felt like she didn’t have a home or belong anywhere.

While it hasn’t been more than a month or so since I binge read the rest of this series, I had forgotten how often these books make me grin, chuckle, and giggle outright. For being about a group of mafia bosses running organized crime families, there is a surprising amount of normal. Just with a little extra bloodshed added to the mix, and a penchant to shoot first, ask questions later.
As I reached the end of Ember, it reinforced the growing feeling that this book, and Phoenix, may be my favorite in the series. He had a long way to go to redeem himself, even after the steps he had taken in previous books, but his past was far from behind him. Watching him deal with those memories and the repercussions of his actions was incredibly human and endearing. And as the final chapters progressed, my anticipation for Elude only grew, even as my engagement with Ember continued.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Rachel Van Dyken

Rachel Van Dyken is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author of regency and contemporary romances. When she's not writing you can find her drinking coffee at Starbucks and plotting her next book while watching The Bachelor.

She keeps her home in Idaho with her Husband and their snoring Boxer, Sir Winston Churchill. She loves to hear from readers! You can follow her writing journey at www.rachelvandykenauthor.com
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