Race horses play an instrumental role in this carefully crafted debut novel. By cultivating winning race horses, Vaclav Skala acquires most of the land in LaVaca county. His love for winning horse races, however, comes at the expense of his family.
After his beloved Clara dies, Vaclav is an embittered man who uses his sons as "work horses" to plow the fields. He exempts his own horses from working since he uses them to race. What proves to be Vaclav’s undoing, however, is his blind hubris.
Vaclav has so much confidence in Karel's riding abilities that he offers up his three other sons as bridegrooms to the daughters of the second largest landowner. This proves to be a tragic mistake. Vaclav may know horses and farming but he knows little about filial bonds or the disarming power of love.
Karel is a good rider but he's distracted by his opponent, Villasenor's daughter, Gabriella. Though only fifteen, he's enchanted by her beauty and the possibilities she offers. Although he is only a boy he must deal with conflicting feelings for her and loyalty towards his family--a situation that continues throughout most of his young life until a pair of delinquents force him to re-prioritize his life.
This novel is a powerful family drama and an intriguing look at life in Texas at the turn-of-the-century. Few authors write so powerfully and evocatively; this novel will resonate for a long time to come.