Book Reviews

Sawbones by Melissa Lenhardt


The year is 1871, and Dr. Catherine Bennett overcame obstacles to earn her medical degree, but fighting the prejudice against female doctors will be a never-ending battle. Forced into an unsavory partnership with a ‘Resurrection Man’ in order to better her skills as a physician and a surgeon, something that would be particularly frowned upon simply because she is a woman, Catherine is returning from her latest visit there when she learns she has been accused of murdering the husband of one of her well-connected patients. Her alibi—the Resurrection Man—would end her career as quickly as the murder accusation and likely conviction. Catherine has no choice but to run.

With her protective maid, Maureen, at her side, Catherine sails to Galveston, Texas, hoping for a fresh start. Circumstances beyond her control and a chance meeting with a former patient lead her to join a wagon train bound for Colorado Territory. Things go from bad to worse, and Catherine, now calling herself Laura, finds herself alone at an army fort filling in temporarily as the post’s doctor until a replacement can be sent. But even at a remote fort in the vast Southern Plains, her true identity and the secret that must stay hidden is in danger of being revealed.

I really enjoyed reading this. Lenhardt’s words painted a vivid picture of Catherine’s plight, and I could easily put myself in Catherine’s shoes and feel what she felt at any given point of the story. The cast of characters were simply wonderful, and quite believable in their portrayal. They were anything but predictable, however… several characters surprised me more than once. Particularly during scenes when I just knew things were going to play out a certain way, only to find I was proven wrong once again.

Every detail in not tied into a neat little  bow by the end of the book—this is the first book in a series, after all—but I have to say, I think the loose ends that were left were perfectly chosen. They are the very ones I want to know more about! I’m looking forward to reading more of Catherine’s story, as well as certain other characters.

I’m hesitant to add this last bit, but I did promise to give an honest review, so I suppose I should. I wanted to read this book the instant I read “Outlander meets post-Civil War unrest in this fast-paced historical debut.” Even more truthfully… as soon as I read the word “Outlander.” That’s not to say that  the book’s description didn’t further reel me in… it did. I would have wanted to read the book based solely on that, minus the bit about Outlander. The thing is… other than the fact that Catherine is a doctor and Outlander’s Claire Randall is a known as a healer after time traveling to 18th century Scotland, and both have to deal with societal mores regarding a woman’s “proper place”… I’m not completely certain using it in the tagline is fitting. (To clarify, I’m not saying that because of the time travel aspect of Outlander.) Then again, I’m not completely certain it isn’t, given the similarities I noted between Catherine and Claire. It’s something I’ve puzzled over more than a few times as I was reading, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. It feels not quite right, somehow, but not quite wrong, either. I’m interested to see what others who read Sawbones think about it, if they have any thoughts about it at all.

But enough about that. The tagline isn’t the important thing, it’s the story itself, which is absolutely fantastic and well written from start to finish. I’m looking forward to book two, and will definitely be reading it. I have a theory or two about what might happen next… can’t wait to find out!

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Redhook via Netgalley.

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Author:  Melissa Lenhardt
Title:  Sawbones
Series: Laura Elliston/Sawbones #1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date:  March 29, 2016 by Redhook
Rating: 4 stars

About the Book

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.

About the Author

MELISSA LENHARDT is the author the Jack McBride mystery series, as well as the Laura Elliston historical fiction series. Her debut mystery, STILLWATER, was a finalist for the 2014 Whidbey Writers’ MFA Alumni Emerging Writers Contest, and SAWBONES, her historical fiction debut, was hailed as a “thoroughly original, smart and satisfying hybrid, perhaps a new subgenre: the feminist Western” by Lone Star Literary Life. A lifelong Texan, she lives in the Dallas area with her husband and two sons.

Author photo and bio via Goodreads.

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