This is the story of Beauty and the Beast set in a banana republic at the end of the 19th century--a true Latin gothic. The Beauty is Eliza Lynch, an upwardly mobile Irish whore, who marries a French Army officer, abandons him to pursue the career of courtesan, and soon finds herself a permanent protector in The Beast,--Francisco Solane Lopez, the squat, ugly, repulsive, and exceedingly rich heir to the Paraguayan throne. Eliza closes her eyes, seduces Lopez, and the two return to his tropical paradise to perpetrate a variety of atrocities. Both, it seems, are victims of Napoleon complexes, and in their pursuit of Empire, they precipitate wars with Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. In the course of working out their ego problems, Madame Lynch and Lopez succeed in destroying Paraguay and decimating the population. In the process, Lopez is killed. Brodsky paints his portraits in bold swatches of black and white. The defenseless Paraguayans are the forces of Good, pitted against Eliza and Lopez. Brodsky conceived his book while employed by the U.S. Embassy in Paraguay, and he feels that the Paraguayan War was the most witless and unnecessary one ever waged in Latin America--which is saying a lot.