Sawbones, the latest novel by Melissa Lenhardt (which is also the first novel in the new Laura Elliston series), catches you from the cover, and keeps you hooked straight through to the last page.
Content Warning: Graphic violence and rape.
This novel begins with our heroine in a bit of a sticky wicket. Dr Catherine Bennett is one of the few female Doctors in New York, and in order to keep up with new surgical advances, she must resort to...less than savory methods of acquiring her cadavers. After a long night of dissection, followed by an semi-successful attack on her person, Dr. Bennett is returning home when she is interrupted by a long time friend. She discovers that one of her patients has been murdered, and she has been accused of the crime.
On the run to the West Coast, and under an assumed name of Laura Elliston, the wagon train she is in is attacked by Indians. Dr Elliston's best friend and maid Maureen is brutally murdered, and the rest of the party is either abducted or murdered.
Taking refuge at the Military outpost where she's been asked to help by General Sherman, the Doctor finds out that the frontier is smaller, and more dangerous than she imagined. The notoriety of being a female Doctor, the danger of falling in love with a man who knew her in her former life, and the ever present threat of Indian raids all take a toll on Dr Elliston.
Then, just when she thinks that she might have a chance at safety and peace, her world is upended again by someone who was supposed to be dead, someone her beloved William buried himself.
Kidnapped by another band of Indians, brutally raped and beaten, Laura is "rescued" by the man who has been following her at the Fort. The man who William buried during the War, his brother. Brutally beaten again, and used as bait to lure William out, Laura must make one of the most difficult decisions of her life. One that will echo throughout what may very well be the sudden end of her life.
I enjoyed Sawbones, there were a few scenes that really made me cringe, especially the rape. It wasn't quite bad enough to make me stop reading the book, as it was pretty well expected due to the time period. But it is still very much there, just as a warning.
Would I recommend Sawbones? Yes. It was a well written book, and it fits into a number of categories. Western, romance, historical fiction, historical romance, strong female protagonist, and adventure. It was a good read, and I've already pre-ordered the next book in the series. Just in case.