Review: Guitars and Cages (Guitars, #1) by Layla Dorine

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.

Trigger warning: Abuse and self-harm

This is not a romance………

This is a compelling story about what happens when Asher’s life unravels to the point he can’t imagine how to put everything to rights, and makes some epically bad decisions; starting with agreeing to look after his nephew, Rory, until his sister-in-law sets up a new life in Canada, a year after the death of her husband.

Asher is damaged. Very damaged. He has been hiding his sexuality for as long as he discovered he was bisexual, and has done any number of things to keep people off the scent, including hitting on his sister-in-law when he was a teen, to take the focus off his relationship with the boy he was in love with.

In his mid-twenties at the beginning of this story, we learn a lot about how Asher deals with life, and his connections with his brothers. How they all seem to be separated by pain, and an inability to function in the world.

There is a lot of angst in this story. A lot of complicated relationships and misunderstandings. Family can be the greatest asset or the biggest roadblock in a happy life.

Asher is trying to hide who he is so his brothers aren’t more disappointed with him, but it seems that it is getting harder and harder to ignore the other side of himself. The side that finds it easy to sell himself to men, as long as there is no emotion involved. The side that is a submissive to Catfish, the only man who seems to treasure him, even though it is a lie. The side that eventually sees no problem with his brother Alex becoming his sister Alexia because she is brave and followed her heart. But he can’t seem to get passed the expectations of his older brother Cole. Cole is a homophobic/transphobic alcoholic bully who thinks he is the leader of the pack and has the right to throw his weight around and abuse his siblings.

This story is rough, and raw. It is infuriating and heartbreaking. Asher’s journey is full of pain and holding back tears while he cuts himself to feel something else. There is a lot of messed up stuff that Asher gets himself into because at the end of the day, he loves deeply and he just wants everyone to be okay, even at the expense of himself. He also just wants to avoid emotional connections and the resulting heartbreak.

I loved this story. I loved the character development. I loved the rough edges and sharp points. I am looking forward to taking the next step in Asher’s journey of discovery on what it is to be an adult, and I can’t wait to sink myself into the in this series.

I’d recommend this to people who enjoy stories about family and the darker side of life.

A review copy was provided by the author for an honest opinion

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