Author: Melissa Lenhardt
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: #1 in the Sawbones series
Publisher: Redhook Books
First Published: March 29, 2016
First Line: "I'll have some fresh ones on the morrow."
Book Description from GoodReads: 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 Review: Sawbones is a combination of western, romance, adventure and historical fiction. With its engaging characters, great premise and some rather outstanding (albeit gruesome) action scenes, I was kept engaged throughout and quite enjoyed this book.
Going into this book I wasn't familiar with the term 'sawbones' (for those like me it's an old term for "a surgeon or physician"). What really drew me to this book was the description likening it to Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. While I enjoyed this book I don't think that is a fair or accurate comparison. While Outlander is partially set in 18th century U.S and has a strong female physician as a lead character, there is no time travel or Scots to be seen. It felt a little disingenuous for that connection to be made but that is more due to publishers/PR than the author so that factor won't be influencing my rating.
Like I mentioned this book has it all - adventure, mystery, romance and a spunky heroine who has a price on her head. Nothing like a price on your head to give you a push to move into dangerous territory. Catherine is a strong main character and it was easy to get behind her. She's smart, sassy, stubborn and generally a force to be reckoned with. She overcame many obstacles to become a doctor and continues to try to get the same recognition for her accomplishments from her male peers and the general population.
As readers see Catherine struggle to be seen as a 'real' physician Lenhardt also taps into other roles and limitations set on women of the time. From a struggling doctor, to married women, to whores and laundresses and spinsters ... anyway you slice it, it was hard being a woman back then.
There is a strong romance aspect to the book and their connection was initially built with witty banter and not bed hopping which I was thankful for. I can't stand the insta-love connections. Was the romance aspect predictable? Ya, kind of but it was sweet and fit the situation. If I allow myself a petty moment, I have to admit that I wasn't fond of Captain Kindle's name. Namely because it constantly reminded me of my e-reader but also because it wasn't the strongest sounding name for a hearty military man. Petty moment over.
What this book has in spades is action and boy, oh boy were there some action scenes! There were several nail biting fight scenes and the author doesn't hold back on her descriptions of the atrocities that man commits against each other (or their very graphic and often misogynistic language). Several of the scenes were shocking and quite gruesome in nature with some leaving me thinking "I didn't think she (the author) would go there ... but she did. Wow!" Even though it was hard to read about killings, abuse, genocide, rape etc these shocking scenes gave an air of authenticity to the era.
Sadly, another issue that was popular at the time was the prejudice and outright hatred for native Americans which was frustrating and hard to read. I felt they were vilified in this book but sadly this was the view of the white population at the time. It would have been nice to have had point of view from the Native side of things as these people struggled to deal with the end of their lands, people and way of life.
Overall I quite enjoyed this book. It's a good ol' romp in the wild, wild west with some great action, a mystery and a sweet romance between two memorable characters. I think people who enjoy historical fictions set in the old west with strong female protagonists, an engaging story and some action will enjoy this book.
Note: the second book in this new series, Blood Oath, will be out in late 2016.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Redhook Books and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.