When Major Patten makes his initial appearance in this wild and woolly story he is a professional gambler; by the last page of the novel's first part he is the owner of the biggest ranch anywhere in the North America of 1851. Much of this is due to his own ability, and in good part to his friendship with Don Jose Vicuna, a rich rancher possessed of a Scottish castle and a beautiful daughter. The Major and Maria marry in spite of a curse placed upon her family by Montezuma to the effect that all of the Arias ""shall be possessed with such a talent for loving that they shall grow insane for the need of love at the instant of their first carnal embrace"". Maria does not survive the birth of her daughter Evelina, and the Major spends the second half of the novel protecting his beautiful daughter from the ancestral curse. When his two foster sons fall in love with Evelina, the Major, still an inveterate gambler, promises her to whichever man is the winner of a series of Herculean contests. The winner turns out to be an English hair oil salesman who kisses Evelina on a train ambushed by the Mexican army. Luckily a priest is handy to perform the necessary nuptials, and the Apaches are there to perform the unique feat of saving the whites from the cavalry. A precis of the plot can give only a hint of the outrageous continuum of events which takes place here. It should appeal to those who enjoyed the author's previous novels and to any one else who might find entertainment in the pell-mell pace of a sophisticated tall-tale.