In 1854, while riding through the gardens of Paris, Franco Lopez sees Ella Lynch astride a splendid mare. The bright blue feather that drifts from Ella's blonde hair lures Franco to the young courtesan. Soon, he has taken her home to Paraguay, where he begins a flamboyant and ruthless rise to power. Ella will bear his children, ignore his mistresses, and send vivid letters back to her friends in France. As Franco's grandiose ambitions lead Paraquay to war, Ella's accounts capture the beauty and harshness of life in this lush country.