Naughty Marietta
by Nan Ryan, historical (2003)
MIRA, $6.50, ISBN 1-55166-676-6

Naughty Marietta is a truly amazing piece of work. It's horrible. I know that. But I have the time of my life just laughing at the despicable lead characters and the occasional moment of playful farce that in the end, it's really hard to pan a book that I really had a good time reading.

Consider the story. Marietta Stone is the mistress of a wealthy geriatric man, Maltese. Not that he and she ever did any hanky-panky. What they often do is that she will tease him by showing some skin (never all) and he will leave drooling and panting. In return, he buys her an opera, hires a vocal trainer for her, and secretly pays his miners to fill the opera house and cheer her when she impersonates a pregnant bullfrog experience difficult childbirth on stage.

Meanwhile, her Secret Granddaddy stops the hanging of Cole Heflin and asks him to get Marietta back. Because you always hire a convicted criminal to bring your beloved granddaughter back to you. Cole kidnaps her. He hates her! (All women are sluts.) She hates him! Sex! She is now sure that he loves her! Oh no, he doesn't love sluts, he just beep 'em! She hates him now! But he's so hot! Sex! Sex! Sex!

Marietta is an atrocious woman who has no idea how mercenery she is. Cole is a halfwit who has no idea how stupid and obnoxious he is. I think the author know though that both her characters are walking braindeads, because some of the really ridiculous scenes in this book show some really dead-on sense of timing or irony. Marietta actually gets what she deserves when she finds herself in the same shoes she had Maltese in, ie she's the one now begging Cole to love her back as much she loves him. I don't know why she loves him, and I think Cole is right when he says she's just a delusional idiot, but there seems to be some rhyme and reason behind the rampant stupidity going on here. The characters often call each other on their stupidity in words that actually echo my own. (Not that they ever learn from those moments of stupidity, sigh.) Even Maltese is portrayed like a menacing but humorous dim-witted godfather type.

On the surface, this book is like Nan Ryan trying to outrun Connie Mason in chasing the stupid train, but unlike Connie Mason's books that seem to be hilarious only unintentionally, Naughty Marietta seems to be working on a subversive agenda. I don't think it's fair to dismiss this book entirely. After all, it's fun.

Rating: 80

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