Raised as a sort of surrogate for brother Carlos who died at two, Carlota brands stock and rides with the vaqueros, wears deerskin trousers, and beats the young men in a horse race during her younger sister's wedding celebration. But even though she loves to ride and is happy that it's Yris and not herself that her father is marrying to the pudgy neighboring rancher, Carlota feels the strain of playing Carlos. And she's dismayed when her father includes her in the heavily outnumbered band, armed only with lances, which he is leading against the already victorious gringos simply to uphold the Spanish Californians' honor. (This is 1846.) Only after her father is mortally injured and Carlota herself has wounded a young gringo in self-defense does she gain the understanding and courage to assert her own feelings--feelings considered shameful by her father, seemly perhaps by the grandmother who would raise her a lady, womanly (one infers) by O'Dell, and merely human to most of today's readers. The lancers' battle is a real one and Carlota partly based on an actual Californian; besides the historical veracity O'Dell fills out his thin, commonplace plot with characteristic narrative vitality, sharp (if simple) characterization, and genuine period color.