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When Gino, a wealthy but lonely sheep rancher in Nevada, decides to marry his deceased wife's sister Gioia, she emigrates from Italy and immediately moves into her new husband's home. Gino's brother Alberto, sister-in-law Teresa, twenty-one-year-old daughter Angie and Bene, a Basque sheepherder whom Gino treats as an adopted son, welcome Gioia into the home with kindness and understanding. Gino, who is used to exerting control over people, however, soon begins to criticize her for speaking Italian and for not being more like her sister. Several months after Gioia's arrival, she accompanies Gino and Bene on a tour of the rancher's property. From the jeep, Gino sees a herd of wild horses grazing on his land, and when he pulls out a rifle to kill one of them, Gioia approaches the animal and cautions it to run away. Deeply moved by the sight of the magnificent horses, Gioia asks Gino if she might have one, but when he later ropes a horse to the ground for her, she is horrified and begs him to set the beast free. Exasperated, Gino knocks her down, and Bene, bending over her to calm her down, looks into her eyes and then, embarrassed, backs away. Later Teresa and Gioia argue about who should run the household, and Gioia complains that she has nothing to do. Soon after, Gioia tries to break the wild horse herself. When the horse rears over her, Bene leaps over the fence, protectively backs Gioia into a corner, and impulsively kisses her. Shocked, Gioia slaps him and then wanders away in a daze. A week later, Gino has an elaborate birthday party for Gioia, but after Gino, raising his glass to toast his wife, calls her by her dead sister's name, Gioia, highly offended, locks him out of their bedroom. Gino, unaware of his blunder, angrily departs for Boston to visit Angie at college. While Gino is away, the lambing season begins, and after Bene and Gioia help the hired hands to deliver the little animals, Bene follows Gioia into the barn and kisses her passionately. The lovers meet often during the following weeks, and on the night before Gino comes home, Gioia visits Bene in his room. The next morning, Teresa, who knows about the affair, confronts Gioia, who defiantly declares that Bene loves her and that the two of them plan to tell Gino and go away together. Gioia finds Bene tending the sheep and the couple embraces just as Gino walks over the hill. Gino strikes Bene and accuses him of betrayal, whereupon Bene, deeply ashamed, declares that he can no longer bear to look at Gioia. Bene leaves the ranch, and Gioia, realizing that her lover has abandoned her, prepares to return to Italy. Before driving her to the airport, Alberto tries to convince Gino that in trying to force Gioia to assume his dead wife's personality, he has never given Gioia a chance to be herself. Gino angrily orders his brother from the house, but later, finds Gioia at the airport and asks her forgiveness. After Gino declares his love for Gioia, she takes his hand, and the two return home.