Friday, July 1, 2016

strictly literary: sawbones by melissa lenhardt

i have a complicated relationship with sawbones. in part because i have a complicated relationship with the main character, catherine bennett a.k.a laura elliston. described as outlander meets lonesome dove,  i thought this new series by melissa lenhardt would be right up my alley.

it would be easier if i outright loved it (or even if i outright hated it!). but really my struggles all boil down to the fact that i'm not sure i liked catherine bennett even when i felt like i should. i understand why authors chose to write in the first person. but sometimes i think some stories would have been better off told in the third person. i think catherine would have been more sympathetic if we weren't exposed to her every thought. because even though we were exposed to her every thought, it was still hard to get a feel for her. she had at once too many and too little secrets being kept from the reader. and the thing is, given everything that happens to catherine, you feel bad not liking her. or at least i felt bad for not liking her. she suffers loss like crazy in this novel, and given that this is the first of three novels, you can only imagine what she has in store before she gets (one hopes) a semi-happy ending. it's hard to say whether catherine is someone destined to ride off into the sunset with anyone by the end of the novel. she kind of does, but given everything that she has suffered you can't imagine that there aren't scars and severe and awful trauma.

the wild west is no safe haven. that's one of the bigger takeaways of the novel. catherine escapes her life in new york when she is threatened with a murder accusation. a murder she knows she didn't commit, but where the cards seem to be stacked against her. she flees to texas, hoping to start a new life out west. but before that life can begin she must suffer more loss. and every time things start to right themselves in her world something else comes to knock her down another peg. there are two brutal attacks by natives that take place at different times during the novel. the first one is bad enough, but the second one is horrific. the specter of violence shadows everything. this is a mirror of what was happening at that time in american history, but knowing this doesn't make it any easier to read. the fact that catherine never feels safe, she's constantly worried about her past life in new york being revealed, and then there's just the danger inherent with life on the frontier.

in the end, i think this book unsettled me. but i keep thinking about it. and honestly that is a good thing. if something stays with you, then the author has done something right. the story is set to continue in blood oath and badlands. both of which i think will be released in 2017, though amazon lists the blood oath pub date as august 16th.


  1. I'm sorry you didn't connect with Laura, but I appreciate you taking the time to write a review! FYI, the series is going to be released in trade paperback back to back to back next April, May and June, so Blood Oath won't be available until May.


    1. Ah, thanks for confirming the publication schedule. I'd seen the newsletter update, but Amazon still listed an August pub date for Blood Oath which I thought was confusing. As to my issues with Laura, maybe it boils down to I think of her as Catherine and maybe I needed to connect with her as Laura instead. Perhaps Laura is the truer Catherine? I don't know. As a character she challenges me, and honestly that's a good thing. Means you created someone worth thinking about.


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