Passions, loosely controlled, combat intelligence and love in the life of young Paul Gregory whose father's death is judged to be an accident but which he knows is murder at the hands of Aaron Layton. Aaron's son, Roger, is willing to ally himself with Paul against his father but Paul, heeding his dead father's last wishes, tries to help and protect his mother, Lela, who, a very short time later, marries Aaron. Aaron's humiliation when he learns that the Gregory Place is destined for Paul, not him, makes firm his efforts to thwart Paul's dedication for carrying on his father's ideas about the farm; Lela hardens when she is ostracized by the valley people; Roger furthers the discord by his desire for her and for discrediting his father. Aaron's ruttish pursuit of Lela to get her to bear his child, his try at killing Paul, have their climax in the truth about Lela's part in the murder and in Aaron's permanent death-in-life from the horses who fear him, and chain Paul, Lela and Roger to a cripple whose loathing will always be a weapon. An unidentified locale, a narrow range of hatred, weakness and selfishness that almost spell defeat, limit this to morbid tastes.