ARC Reviews, Book Reviews, Historical Fiction

(Historical) Fiction Friday! Book Review: Sawbones by Melissa Lenhardt

Attention historical fiction fans!  Are you looking for your next read?  Does an action-packed western set in the 1870’s appeal to you?  How about a book with a female doctor as the main character during a time when female doctors were few and far between?  Look no further!

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Author: Melissa Lenhardt

Publisher: Redhook (March 29, 2016)

Publication Date: March 29, 2016

Sold by: Hachette Book Group

Amazon // Goodreads


 Book Synopsis:

Outlander meets post-Civil War unrest in this fast-paced historical debut.

When Dr. Catherine Bennett is wrongfully accused of murder, she knows her fate likely lies with a noose unless she can disappear. Fleeing with a bounty on her head, she escapes with her maid to the uncharted territories of Colorado to build a new life with a new name. Although the story of the murderess in New York is common gossip, Catherine’s false identity serves her well as she fills in as a temporary army doctor. But in a land unknown, so large and yet so small, a female doctor can only hide for so long.

My Thoughts:

First off, lets discuss this beautiful cover!  The cover of Sawbones immediately caught my eye.  There is just something about it that makes me want to crack it open and find out who the woman on the cover is.  Very mysterious indeed.  The title of the book is also an attention grabber. Sawbones?  Crude, yet intriguing…

I just HAD to find out what this book was about.  After reading the synopsis, I was confident this book was going to be right up my alley.   The comparison to Outlander in the synopsis had me a little worried, those are some big standards to live up to …

Sawbones starts off with a bang and keeps you on your toes until the very end.    It is a very fast paced read, without any slow parts to the book.  I found myself staying up until the wee hours of the night to see what was going to happen next.  This book definitely kept me guessing, I can honestly say it isn’t predictable in the slightest.

The story is set in post civil war 1870s, predominantly taking place in the army site, Fort Richardson, TX.  Circumstances force our main character, Dr. Catherine Bennett (also known as Laura Elliston), from her home in New York, and into the turmoil of the wild West. As settlers continue to expand into the West, tensions with Native Americans over land are at an all time high.  Traveling into the West during these times was no easy feat with the threat of Indian attack hanging in the air.  Unfortunately, Catherine/Laura does not get by unscathed.

Warning: This book has graphic violent content!

Lenhardt stayed true to the brutality of the era by not sugar coating anything.  If you are sensitive to savage violence, this may not be the book for you.  Unfortunately, these types of heinous attacks were a reality in these times.

Speaking of our leading lady, bravo to Lenhardt for giving life to such a brilliant protagonist!  Some of my favorite books feature woman doctors post revolutionary & civil wars.  Characters like Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser of Outlander, Hannah of the Into the Wilderness series, and Anna & Sophie Savard of The Gilded Hour. Catherine/Laura definitely was able to hold her own in my eyes.  She was strong, intelligent, witty, determined and unwavering in her confidence in herself as a physician.

    The love story in Sawbones is pretty tame on the passion scale, however that suited me just fine!  I’m a fan of love scenes that leave a little to the imagination.  The romance is a slow burn that builds as the story goes on.  The witty banter between Catherine/Laura and her love interest was perfect.  I even found myself laughing aloud a few times.  Oh how I love clever repartee!

Like Outlander, Sawbones has a lot going on at once.  If books with complex plots put you off or if an abundance of characters leaves you with a headache, this book probably won’t be your cup of tea.  However if you are up to the challenge, you won’t regret it.

I was happy to learn that Sawbones is going to be a series, with the second book, Blood Oath, set to be released in August 2016.  With how things are left at the end of Sawbones, I will be anxiously anticipating the release of the second installment!

Noteworthy Quotes:

“Death followed me like a determined enemy, dogging my steps, clutching at the hem of my cloak, pushing me forward, away from memories best left on the charred, desolate battlefield of my past.”

“I wanted someone to love me because of my mind and accomplishments, not despite them.”

“You have no idea the depth of your strength until you are truly tested.”

“It is Dr. Elliston, Miss Mackenzie, and I will beg you remember it.  I am sorry I am not older and uglier to spare the gentle feelings of the young wives, but I cannot change my appearance, even if I were so inclined.  I have always found it repulsive and ridiculous the idea less attractive women are somehow more qualified to take care of men on their sickbed.”

“There is that word again!  Oh, how I have always loathed the word appropriate!  It is a word used most often by women without the courage or imagination to think and do for themselves and by men who routinely engage in inappropriate behavior behind closed doors.”

 My Rating: 4/5 Stars

*Big thanks to Redhook and Melissa Lenhardt for a digital copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


About the Author

1439160203790Melissa Lenhardt writes mystery, historical fiction, and women’s fiction. Her short fiction has appeared in Heater Mystery Magazine, The Western Online, and Christmas Nookies, a holiday romance anthology. Her debut novel, Stillwater, was a finalist for the 2014 Whidbey Writers’ MFA Alumni Emerging Writers Contest. She is a member of the DFW Writers’ Workshop and vice president of the Sisters in Crime North Dallas Chapter. Melissa lives in Texas, with her husband and two sons.

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8 thoughts on “(Historical) Fiction Friday! Book Review: Sawbones by Melissa Lenhardt”

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