A Pittsburgh art exhibition in the 1820's is the opening scene of a rapid and dynamic romance between the artist's daughter and a dashing young lawyer on his way from New York to Texas with ambitious plans and no patience. Within a few weeks, just after the unexpected death of her father, Constance marries her impetuous Ruel and they set off by flatboat to Texas. Before their whirlwind marriage is consummated, however, the boat is attacked by river pirates, Ruel is given up for dead, and Constance is saved by Ruel's river-boat partner Matt -- the antithesis of Ruel, but powerful and handsome in a different way. Seriously ill, Constance awakens within two weeks to find herself in Matt's St. Louis home, and after many misgivings is persuaded to marry this huge man with a woman's tenderness and an overpowering love for her. Accepted by the townfolk of St. Louis and having learned to love Matt, Constance is happier than she had ever imagined possible and the arrival of their son completes her bliss. This carefully nurtured tranquillity is abruptly shattered by the sudden appearance of her supposedly-dead first husband, and after a loquaciously melodramatic inner -- and outer -- struggle, Constance finally chooses between her two contenders, in favor of Matt . . . Incredibly enough, this overly sentimental. (and nearly maudlin) story manages to override its teen-age flare-ups and keeps a romantic hold on its readers. They will be feminine.