This story takes place in Colonial Latin America, a time of injustice and extreme social differences, when the peasants lived under the iron fist of the aristocratic class, and everyone, rich and poor alike, lived under the dark cloud of the Spanish Inquisition.
Maria Hipolita Diaz was raised by her grandmother, Doña Carlota, in the town of Santa Rita, in Panama. Hipolita was born in Mexico, but was separated from her mother, Asuncion, at a tender age, and has never known who her father is. In exchange for a handsome dowry, Doña Carlota arranges to have her granddaughter marry Antonio, the son of Doña Adelaida de Guzman. A few months later, the old lady dies without knowing that the marriage has not been consumated because Antonio is impotent, and that Adelaida treats Hipolita with contempt for being an illegitimate child.
Knowing that Antonio will inherit his uncle Prospero’s fortune only if he fathers a child, Adelaida forces a runaway prisoner who was captured by her servants to pass himself as Antonio and enter Hipolita’s bedchamber at night to impregnate her. The “criminal” is Luis Manrique y Arellano, a Mexican merchant who was sent to Santa Rita by his cousin Diego, the Count of Guevara, to close a business deal, never suspecting that it was a trap to murder him. Forced into a corner, Luis accepts Adelaida’s conditions, with the secret intention of escaping through the window, but he succumbs to Hipolita’s tenderness and he is powerles to stop himself. Later, burdened with remorse, he tells her his story and disappears into the night. Hipolita has not seen his face and does not know his name; all she knows is that he is from Mexico.
Three years later, having fled from the wickedness of Adelaida, Hipolita arrives in Mexico with her son Rafael, determined to face every hardship in order to find her son’s father and force him to acknowledge his child. She is soon swept up in a turmoil of intrigue and violence instigated by Doña Juana, the sister of the former Count of Guevara, and she will have to fight for her life and the life of her son, while her heart is torn between her hatred for the tender, passionate stranger who made a woman of her, and the love she has come to feel for Luis, without realizing that they are the same man.