Friday, May 26, 2017

Review: Blood Oath

Blood Oath by Melissa Lenhardt was originally supposed to come out last August, and yes I'm still bitter about it.  After reading and loving Sawbones last year, I thought I only had a few short months to wait for the second book in the trilogy.  Instead Blood Oath got pushed back until May 2017.  I'm not usually one to whine over having to wait on books (I've got more than enough in my TBR to entertain me during such a wait), but when this book got pushed back, I damn near burst into frustrated tears. Then it showed up on NetGalley (finally!) and Hachette took like 2 weeks to approve my request.  So after all this, what did I think of the book?  Well, it's a classic book two in a trilogy, and just like Sawbones, it's problematic as heck and I can't figure out who to recommend this too.  So looks like I may be writing this blog post for myself.

Events from Sawbones see our heroine, Laura Elliston (the former Catherine Bennett) on the run with her lover, Captain William Kindle.  A doctor by trade, she fled New York City when she was accused of murdering the husband of one of her patients.  A female doctor is sensational enough, but one believed to have murdered someone?  It's not terribly shocking that the story has continued to dog Laura.  She escapes with Kindle and now they're on the run from bounty hunters.  As if that weren't enough, the "Indian problem" in the West is hitting a fever pitch and circumstances from the previous book have left Laura with a heaping helping of post-traumatic stress.

I don't care what genre we're talking about, when you have a trilogy that follows the lives of one set of characters they all read the same.  Book One = OMG, this is great!  I want more!  Give me more!  Book Three = OMG, this is a great!  What an exciting conclusion!  So action-packed!  Which leaves us with Book Two.  What is Book Two?  Book Two = The Bridge.  It's the carry over book.  It's the occasionally ho-hum middle book that you have to read because it wraps up some stuff from Book One and carries you over into the exciting conclusion of Book Three.  I don't care who the author is writing it, when you have a connected trilogy like this no reader anywhere ever says that Book Two is the best one in the series.

Just as in Sawbones, this is historical fiction with some suspense and some romance - although the romance isn't quite as satisfying here.  Namely because Kindle and Laura are past the courtship phase and have begun to realize that 1) they don't know everything about each other and 2) they're both very difference people.  Kindle may love Laura but that doesn't mean he's always accepting of her independent, feminist ideas.  Laura loves Kindle, but she's no Suzy Homemaker and she's beginning to realize that she doesn't know everything about his past.

Just like the first book, this one has problematic elements (really ugly history) and is violent.  Frankly there's a rape scene in this book that was A Bridge Too Far For Me - and that's saying something.  I have a strong constitution when it comes to violence in fiction.  I was the teenager reading Patricia Cornwell, not Georgette Heyer.  Blood guts, violence against women - I'm not saying it doesn't bother me, but I can generally handle it in fiction.  I was a suspense fan long before I discovered romance.  So if something violent in a book bothers ME?!  Just saying.

The story itself is good, but I didn't love it as much as book one.  My biggest quibble with it is how Laura's PTSD is handled.  It's not surprising how screwed up she is at the start of this story. Sawbones was epic and violent and OMG, a gut punch.  But then she has an experience that leads to her working through some of this traumatic past and....I'm sorry, I'm not entirely buying it.  I mean, does PTSD ever "go away?"  I don't think so.  It features prominently in the first half of the book and then kind of drops off the map.  Who knows, it may all come back into play in the third book.  Only time will tell.

If you read and liked Sawbones, this one is a must read.  It sets everything up for the final book in the trilogy, Badlands, which is due out in June.  I've really enjoyed this series so far, even when I've been questioning whether I should or not.  But it has the kind of epic scope and drama that is hooking me at a time when finding books that truly engage me is getting to be a tall order.  This certainly won't be for everybody.  But, so far, they've been for me.

Final Grade = B


ValancyBlu said...

I LOVED Sawbones - and actually grabbed it after I read your review - it was SO GOOD!!! I bought an actual physical version, rather that just an epub- which I think is a sign that it is a stellar book. I am totally buying this one as well - but agree - middle books in trilogies are very often just a long set up for the conclusion (how I feel about The Two Towers and I don't care what anyone says!) but console myself with the thought that a little not-quite-as-good-as-the-first is still EPICALLY better than a lot of what's out there...

Wendy said...

Valancy: Yes, if you loved the first book you really need to read this one - even though it is "the middle book" and it mostly exists to set up the final book in the trilogy (and I was thinking of Tolkien! I mean, who says The Two Towers is their favorite book in the trilogy? LOL)

Violence in books isn't something I really thought about until I started blogging. It was then I clued into the fact that some readers don't want to go there. The violence in Blood Oath is on par with Sawbones - but there's a rape scene in this book....well. Yeah. I was traveling while reading and think I may have actually recoiled in my airline seat.