"Broken Angel (House Phoenix: Book One)" by S. W. Vaughn

Broken Angel
(House Phoenix: Book One)
by S. W. Vaughn

Description
Gabriel is lost…
Drawn into the New York City underground in search of his missing sister, Gabriel Morgan is running out of money, options–and hope. Until a brawl in the basement of a seedy Brooklyn bar drags him deeper into the shadows than he’s ever been.
Gabriel is found…
By the leader of a secret society of underground fighters, who operates a network of vicious, no-holds-barred matches where millions change hands. They have no rules. No limits. And they have Gabriel’s sister.
Gabriel is broken…
Taken prisoner and forced to join the organization, Gabriel undergoes a brutal training program in preparation for the ring. To earn his sister’s freedom, and his own, he’ll submit outwardly to the demands of his captors and take the new name they give him–while in secret, he plans a daring revenge that will either shake the society to its twisted core…or seal his own deadly fate.
Gabriel is Angel.
And when Angel fights, he’ll do anything to win. Because the price for losing is his sister’s life.
Excerpt
“We’re off to a bad start. Let’s try again.” Slade stood and stared down at him. “You are Gabriel Morgan. I am Marcus Slade. I’m a businessman, and I have a proposition for you. That’s why I brought you here.”

“A proposition,” Gabriel repeated numbly. “Funny, but this doesn’t feel like an offer.”

“Oh, I have no intention of allowing you to refuse. We can do this the easy way, or the hard way.”

His mouth opened, shut. This psycho was going to kill him. How could he get out of this? Struggling wouldn’t work. In his current condition, he couldn’t physically overpower Slade. The man was as strong as one of 
Diego’s goons. He’d have to play along until he could think of something else.

“All right,” he finally said. “What do you want?”

“It’s simple, really.” Slade’s mouth curved into a cold smile. “I run fighters and girls, and they make me a lot of money. You are going to fight for me.”

“The hell I am,” he snapped before he could stop himself. “You’re talking about those basement beat-downs your pal Diego does? No. And why do you want me?”

Slade laughed. “First off, Diego Mendez is no friend of mine. I don’t know how you ended up with him, and I don’t want to know. Second, those ridiculous little pissing contests you’ve been hanging around are not fights. The organization doesn’t even recognize them.”

A lead weight settled in his stomach. This bastard belonged to the organization? At once he recalled Diego’s reaction when he looked at Lillith’s picture.

He was definitely the right one, the man said. And Slade had mentioned fighters…and girls.

Oh God. No…

“You’ll fight for me, Mr. Morgan. I happen to have something you want.” Slade walked to the door, opened it and leaned out. “Get in here.”

“What is going on?” The woman’s voice, tinged with fright, came from beyond the entrance. “Apollo, let go of me! Please. Tell me what’s happening…”

Gabriel’s chest became unbearably tight. He pushed himself to his feet, no longer caring what Slade said or did, and took a stumbling step toward the door, and another.

He stopped. An enormous man filled the entryway, glared at him and stepped through, pulling a dark-haired woman in after him. Her head bent forward and cascading hair hid her face, but he didn’t have to see it. He’d known the instant she spoke.

She lifted her face. Her eyes met his. “Oh, my God,” she whispered as one hand flew to her mouth.

He barely managed to remain standing. He swallowed hard, but the lump in his throat stayed.

Lillith.
Review
This is my first S.W. Vaughn book and I’m really happy I had the opportunity to read it. I love the characters, I love the plot, the intricacies between the fighting Houses and the struggle of being an owned man.
Gabriel Morgan has been beaten by his father for 17 years all in the name of protecting his sister Lillith. Now that one happiness in his life is missing, and he will stop at nothing until he finds her. Unfortunately that leads him in to an underground fighting ring complete with prostitution (guess where Lillith is) and protected by the cops who have their own House. The head of Ulysses House, Marcus Slade, sees something in Gabriel. This burning desire to protect at all costs. He uses the threat of rape and murder of his beloved sister over Gabriel and forces him to become one of his fighters. As I’m sure everyone is aware of, no one graciously accepts being forced to fight. This leads to Gabriel meeting Jenner. I loved Jenner’s character. He was cold, brutal yet esoteric. Jenner transforms Gabriel into Angel, complete with life size tattoos of wings on his back, and slowly breaks him, to build him up again.
This book was truly magnificent. I could smell the sweat and blood in the ring. Hear the jeers of the audience, and feel the crunch of bone beneath my fist. Vaughn is very good at pulling out the details with stark words and feelings. The plot moves quickly along, and Gabriel is a far cry from the underdog hero who rises to the top. Far, far, from it. The ending will have you cringing and wanting to bang this book against certain character faces. It is sad, but needful if our hero is to ever finally stand on his own. I know the second book will be even bloodier, and I can’t wait to see what Jenner ends up doing. If you like gore, brutality, fighting, dirty tricks, cheap whores and worse… you will devour this book.
About the Author
S.W. Vaughn is the pseudonym of Sonya Bateman, author of the urban fantasy novels Master of None and Master and Apprentice from Simon & Schuster. Vaughn’s work tends to run a bit darker than Bateman’s. She lives in central New York with her husband, son, and a lot of cats who are often named after movie or TV show characters – like Fizzgig (The Dark Crystal), Coda (Brother Bear), Mothra (Godzilla), and Blooregard Q. Kazoo (Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends).
The House Phoenix series is straight-up thriller – no romance, no paranormal. The series features a secret society of underground fighters, a large cast of characters with twisting interaction, and a detailed world placed on the dark side of New York City. Broken Angel is the first in the series, and is followed by Devil’s Honor, Mask of the Serpent, and Shades of Black. Currently, Vaughn is working on the fifth and final book of the House Phoenix series, Alpha Male, which she hopes to have available for Summer 2013.
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