Since the eighteenth century the excentric and flamboyant Beltrán family have ruled their desolate Andean valley. Now they are almost extinct. At seventeen Lydia Sinclair, newly married to Don Diego Beltrán, the last of the line, arrives at the vast decaying Hacienda La Bebella. As her husband retreats into himself, Lydia takes refuge in unearthing his ancestors' tragic history. Benito, the family's oldest retainer, relates to her tales of splendour and romance, violence and suffering. From these she weaves a rich Gothic tapestry in which the fantastic legends of the past are mingled with the present necessity for survival in a harsh, drought-ridden land.