Can first cousins, close since childhood, find happiness together as lovers? Not likely, in this crisis-peppered love story, when marriage is proscribed by the church and when violence, political and domestic, and hot tempers intervene. The scene is mainly upper-caste Brazil from 1958-74. In Rio de Janeiro, wealthy railroad owner/English expatriate Charles adores his young daughter Eleanor, tolerates his other child Isobel and his gentle wife, but truly hates John, who's the son of testy Charles's beloved sister Elizabeth. She is married to aristocrat Michael (whom Charles also dislikes) and lives on a coffee plantation deep in the Backlands, by a jungle river. Meanwhile, John--polite, handsome, and bright--arrives to be educated and quickly becomes the joy of young Eleanor's life. Eventually, John will rescue Eleanor from bad boys, jaguars, and most spectacularly from dad Michael--who later, while Eleanor is visiting the Backlands, kills Elizabeth and then raves around with a gun. True to form, Charles comes to hate John for being a hero. Years pass; John returns from school in England; befriends a young prostitute (a film-star-to-be); and enters ``radical'' politics. (Bullen includes a modest amount of commentary on the various Brazilian regimes.) John and Eleanor meet and make love from time to time, but Eleanor will marry another, lose him, and John will disappear. While on-and-off John and Eleanor fling themselves together, there will be gunfire, violence, and much change of fortune before the happy end. A pleasant setting for a string of ordeals that beset a bland group of people. By the author of To Catch the Sun (1990).