Blog Tour – Guitars and Cages by Layla Dorine
Title: Guitars and Cages
Author: Layla Dorine
Genre: gay fiction, urban drama, contemporary, M/M fiction
Publisher: Wayward Ink Publishing
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.
“Uncle Asher, Uncle Asher!”
Oh God, one more hour of rest, please, is that too much to ask? One more hour, and then I swear, I’ll get up and take the kid to the park or the zoo or the aquarium or the movies or wherever the hell it is that he’s gonna beg for me to take him today. I’ll get him McDonald’s, an ice-cream sundae, a slice of his favorite pizza, anything for sixty more minutes of sleep. And yet still the bouncing continued, as well as the loud repeating of my name. Apparently, silence wasn’t making the point and the kid wasn’t gonna go away without some sort of verbal acknowledgement from me. I groaned, and he began his singsong chant again. When the hell did they grow outta that shit, anyway?
“Uncle Asher, Uncle Asher, Uncle Asher, Uncle Asher!”
Every word punctuated with a bounce, goddammit all; whoever said you had to die to be in hell was a bloody fool.
“Rory!” I roared, realizing as he toppled from the bed and landed on the floor with a thud that I’d likely scared the hell out of him.
Silence, oh blessed, blessed silence.
“Uncle Asher?” he asked hesitantly now, and much, much quieter. I groaned, as the silence had been far too fleeting.
“Rory, is the apartment on fire?” I asked, refusing to pull the pillow away from my face and acknowledge the sunlight that I knew was shining into the room.
“Are the cops at the door?”
“No,” he responded with a bit of a sigh.
“Is the whor… err, my girlfriend at the door?” I asked, hoping he hadn’t caught my little slip.
“Uh-uh,” he said solemnly. Well, that was a good thing, anyway; I was beginning to not be as fond of her as I’d once been.
“So, is the Super at the door demanding rent?” I asked, figuring that was a bit of a long shot since I’d paid the rent at the start of the week.
“Nope,” he said, and I could feel him climb up and sit on the edge of the bed.
“Has the zombie apocalypse started?”
“Uhh no, but wouldn’t that be awesome?”
I chuckled into the pillow. Awesome wasn’t quite the word I’d use, but hell, if several people I knew managed to get themselves turned into walking corpses at the very least I could shoot them in the head and actually get away with it.
“Have aliens landed on the roof?” I asked him, and now he was laughing.
“Don’t they only land in cornfields?” he replied, and I groaned and let out a long-suffering sigh.
“So let me get this straight. There’s no mass hysteria, no flames, no one at the door, and no zombies on the streets, and yet you’re waking me up a whole hour before I told you it was okay?”
“Well, yeah, but you gotta get up or you’re gonna be in trouble,” Rory said in a quiet voice that sort of scared me. It certainly got the pillow from over my face, and I opened my eyes, blinking at the soaking-wet form of him sitting on my bed. Why was he soaking wet and fully dressed and getting water all over the place? And did I really want to know?
“What did you do?” I groaned. I don’t wanna know, I don’t wanna know, I don’t wanna know, a voice inside my head practically screamed as I could hear what sounded like running water hitting the floor in the other room. I threw the sheet aside and bolted toward the sound—too fast, because as soon as I hit the next room I went skidding across the damned linoleum floor and crashing into the kitchen cupboards.
I’m having trouble writing this review. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not because the writing is bad. The author’s writing style was just what this story needed. No, I’m having trouble because the story hits a little too close to home for me, and I don’t want to get too personal.
The author wrote the story in first person, simple past tense. Some people don’t like that. I do. In the case of Guitars and Cages, I really did. Asher, the main character, is broken, he says so himself several times. He wants to be broken. He feels he deserves it. As a person with my own past, I can relate.
As much as we all might like to be in a bubble sometimes, we aren’t. Asher is no different. His views on life and his own self-worth depend very much on the actions of others, and his understanding of them. Whether it’s his dead brother’s widow leaving her son with him, his brother-now sister showing up, his older brother Cole, his uncle, a new neighbor, or his fight booking agent, Asher internalizes everything through the lens of his past. At first, I wanted to dislike the guy, but it became very clear, early on, that although struggling, he was a good person. He made decisions that seemed selfish, but in reality, he made them because he cared.
I became emotionally involved in the telling of this. I wanted to shout at Asher sometimes to wise up, or yell at his brother Cole for being mean to everyone. I cried a lot, because the story hit very close to home, in a few ways.
Layla Dorine deals with quite a few serious issues: suicide attempts, self-loathing, cutting, abuse, violence. If any of these issues disturb you, you might want to be cautious in reading this. Although, the author treats each issue without too much sensationalism, and with introspection.
The part in the blurb about Alexia intrigued me. Stories dealing with transgendered issues are rare, and most don’t quite hit the mark. I’m not transgendered myself. I won’t speak to the validity of the author’s portrayal of Alexia, but I can say that I thought the author did a good job in portraying the different reactions people might have. It felt genuine to me. I hurt for her. I sympathized.
Alexia was very important in being able to understand Asher better. As Asher discovers that Alexia isn’t as strong as he think she is, he discovers that he is stronger than he ever thought he was, and worth more. She wasn’t the only character to do that. Quite a few of his interactions with people, including Asher’s new neighbor, Connor, and his nephew, Rory, force him to realize he isn’t as bad a person as he thinks he is, even though he had done bad things in the past.
The story isn’t exactly happily-ever-after. There are far too many loose ends for that, but I liked it that way. I was left with a sense of hope. Hope for Asher and Connor. Hope that Asher might someday allow himself to be happy. Hope that Layla Dorine will write a sequel to this amazing story.
I will definitely be rereading this one over and over again.
5 amazing stars.
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Prize: $20 WIP Gift Card and 1 ebook copy of Guitars and Cages
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About the author
LAYLA DORINE lives among the sprawling prairies of Midwestern America, in a house with more cats than people. She loves hiking, fishing, swimming, martial arts, camping out, photography, cooking, and dabbling with several artistic mediums. In addition, she loves to travel and visit museums, historic, and haunted places.
Layla got hooked on writing as a child, starting with poetry and then branching out, and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Hard times, troubled times, the lives of her characters are never easy, but then what life is? The story is in the struggle, the journey, the triumphs and the falls. She writes about artists, musicians, loners, drifters, dreamers, hippies, bikers, truckers, hunters and all the other folks that she’s met and fallen in love with over the years. Sometimes she writes urban romance and sometimes its aliens crash landing near a roadside bar. When she isn’t writing, or wandering somewhere outdoors, she can often be found curled up with a good book and a kitty on her lap.
Layla Dorine can be found at: