Book: Sawbones
Author: Melissa Lenhardt
Publisher: Redhook Books
Release Date: March 29, 2016
Genre: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult), Historical Mystery

My rating: 4 stars out of 5

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. (Synopsis and cover image from


I received this book from Redhook through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve liked historical fiction since I started reading. As a child, I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Mandie series. I loved reading about pioneers and cowboys. I think it’s because I was being transported to a bygone era, a time and place and way of life that we can never go back to, that I can never experience.

Sawbones gave me that same feeling.

It gave me the feeling of experiencing things others might have lived through, of being in a different time where life had a very different rhythm than it has today.

I really enjoyed this book. Also, I LOVE the cover.

The pacing made me want to keep reading. I only put it down when I was forced to–when my lunch break ended and I had to go back to work, when my family called me to Easter dinner with Grandma, when I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer and the words all fuzzed together.

The story had lots of surprises and twists and turns. Although it had a few romance tropes (falling in love with a mystery man from the past, independent woman pushes away man she actually loves to save herself the pain), very little in this book felt expected. Lenhardt did a wonderful job of creating suspense and then just when I got comfortable, jerking the reigns in a different direction.

One thing I really loved was that the characters all seemed very human; they were full of layers, good and bad. Even the bad guys had real motivations and weaknesses. I want to read more about these characters and see where their journey takes them.

It’s not always an easy story to read, though. There are layers of truth of what frontier life was like, many of the hardships and horrendous things people went through (and did!). Again, although difficult to stomach at times, this made the world and the characters seem more real, adding even more to why I enjoyed this book. Lenhardt didn’t try to gloss over the realities of the time period she is writing about.

Accusations of murder, cross-country escapes, false identities, wagon trains, massacres, lone survivors, middle-of-nowhere surgeries, flirting, inappropriate behaviour, prostitutes, thievery, revenge…this book has so much. One thing I hope to see in the next instalment (yes, I did once again stumble upon a series that I now have to wait for) is a more positive reflection of the Native American tribes displaced by the white settlers. The Native Americans are represented as savage killers in this story, which I know was the experience of many settlers, but I can only hope that the hints in this first book (at least one friendship between a good white character and a Native character) lead to some positive Native American characters in future books.

If you like historical fiction with strong (and stubborn!) female characters, Sawbones is a good book for you. I can’t wait for Blood Oath to be released in August!

  1. Oh, wow this sounds so interesting – I do like strong (/stubborn) female characters because I can relate to them! And she’s a doctor?! Okay. I want to read this. I also don’t mind reading about the darker aspects of life, so this sounds like a good fit for me.
    Also, I *loved* Little House on the Prairie!

    I’m interested to see how the portrayal of Native Americans changes in the second one too – I think that’s quite a difficult thing to handle, balancing the time period one is writing about and reconciling it with modern views…

    Thanks for the review Trisha Jenn!
    (the blog looks fabulous, by the way!!!)

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