Mira, Apr 2003, 6.50, 384 pp.
In 1872 Galveston, Texas, septuagenarian Maxwell Lacey nears death but needs to right the wrong he committed when he tossed his pregnant unmarried daughter from their home twenty-five years ago. Maxwell cannot do anything for his deceased daughter, but wants to see his granddaughter Marietta Stone before he dies. Only her poster as a diva in the Central City, Colorado opera house keeps him alive. Maxwell uses his wealth and influence to save former confederate officer Cole Heflin from the gallows. Cole agrees to bring Marietta to Maxwell in exchange for $10,000 that the pardoned felon will provide to the widowed mother and sister of a deceased friend.
In Central City Cole attends the opera where Marietta performs. He is stunned by her beauty, but shocked when she sings in front of the packed house because her voice stinks. Cole learns that a middle-aged patron sponsors Marietta and three of his henchmen guard her around the clock. Cole abducts Marietta from underneath the protection of her local patron. As she tries every trick, including seduction, to gain her freedom, he safely takes her past her patron's chasing guards, Comanche, mountain men, and buffalo. On the trail they fall in love but she resents his forcing her to see her detestable grandfather.
This is a fun western romance that is loaded with non-stop action though Marietta's protectors seem a bit too pathetic. The story line is absolutely superb when Marietta and Cole battle one other for control of a relationship that changes from captive to forever love (no Stockholm syndrome with this couple). Sub-genre fans will have a good time reading NAUGHTY MARIETTA.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner