Turbulent, tempestuous river romance of steamboat days on the Rio Grande--and extremely familiar fare. Big, swaggering Tom Stuart and his partner Jonas Parker take on the nefarious Jack Stillman for control of the river trade as the Mexican-American War winds down. Stuart has only two ships and Stillman five, with Stuart managing the low-paying military contract while Stillman handles the lucrative commercial traffic. And when Stuart decides to organize some secret backers among the merchants and build himself two new riverboats according to his radical new design (ships that draw only a foot of water and can float on spit), Stillman quietly buys up Stuart's loans and waits to take over the ships when Stuart fails to pay off the full debt within a year. Meanwhile, Stuart falls for Creole belle Jovette in New Orleans, kills her fiancÃ‰ in a pistol duel at dawn, and persuades her to marry him. (Stuart's Mexican mistress Maria shrieks with hatred, then eventually marries Jonas Parker.) But when elegant, bored Jovette's family lends Stuart the cash to meet Stillman's demands, the villain decides to get rough to protect his monopoly and blows up Stuart's new steamer, along with Jonas and Maria. Stuart and Jovette join in their bloody revenge on Stillman. . . . Rugged-with added piquancy provided by the riverboat lore--but a shade less serviceable than Braun's similarly derivative Oklahoma saga, The Kincaids (1976).