Reviewed by Donna
TITLE: Guitars and Cages
SERIES: Guitars #1
AUTHOR: Layla Dorine
PUBLISHER: Encompass Ink
RELEASE DATE: May 25, 2017
Asher Logan is a bartender and a pretty wicked guitar player, when he isn’t wrecking his hands fighting in a cage. With a past he keeps hoping to outrun, Asher’s been on a downward spiral for longer than he can remember. When his sister-in-law leaves Rory, his eight-year-old nephew, in his care, Asher is forced into two things he’s never been good at: sobriety and responsibility. As he struggles to care for Rory, his own life begins to unravel.
When Asher’s brother, Alex, turns up, presenting as a girl and announcing her new name is Alexia, it further complicates matters, as does the arrival of his new neighbor, Conner. Both, in their own way, compel Asher to look at his own closely-guarded views on sexuality.
When the siblings’ older brother, Cole, reacts violently to Alexia, Asher is placed squarely in the middle of a family conflict which compels him to confront who he pretends to be versus who he really is.
Asher must choose who to trust and who to finally walk away from.
Well, holy crap. That was not my usual kind of story at all. I’m not the biggest fan of angst. I have absolutely no idea why I chose to read this after I checked out some other reviews and came away with the sound of other readers wailing in pain echoing in my ears. But sometimes you find a blurb that you just can’t say no to, and so here I am. Emotionally exhausted, eyes red and sore, family members concerned for my mental state. This story was Cry Level: Snot. It wasn’t pretty at my house today.
Firstly, and I think most importantly for some readers, this isn’t a romance. The blurb mentions “new neighbor Connor” and yes, Connor does become the love interest, but don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. Connor only makes rare appearances through the majority of the book. They begin as enemies, somewhere around the second half they become friends, and it’s not till the very end that that changes into the possibility of something more. Connor and Asher don’t so much as kiss in this book, and as for sex, the only sex to be found is a few instances of dub con between Asher and a criminal figure.
This book is about dealing with the mistakes of your past more than any other theme. There are scenes of self-harming, attempted suicide and as I mentioned before, dubious consent. Not one character in the story really has their shit together. They are all a big confusion of hatred, anger, desperation, and a multitude of other messed up emotions. And if you dare to believe that maybe one character has had some sort of epiphany, you can be damn sure the author is about to fuck with them again.
I realize that I’m making this book seem all doom and gloom, and ok, maybe the majority of it is, but trust me, knowing these characters makes all the pain worth it. Asher is without question the focus of the story. Even with all these others throwing their own shit into the ring, Asher’s demons trump anything that anyone else can bring. Asher made me cry, and cry hard. He so desperately needed help. You could feel him getting closer and closer to death, and you just want to scream at the others to see him. To really see him.
Alexia was definitely a favourite character. She was important as a major catalyst for Asher finally taking a look at his own life, and trying to make some positive changes. Of course, it was never going to be that simple, but although she had her own issues, Alexia was one of the brighter points of the story.
Don’t expect to find a HEA at the end of this story. It would have been impossible and ridiculous. I can assure you that it does end on a hopeful note and there is a sequel that I intend to dive right into.