In 1889, to save his honor, seventeen-year-old Ljubica's selfish father forces her to journey from Croatia to Butte, Montana and marry 40-year-old Vik Bartolji whose cruelty not only affects her life but her name, as he changes it to Marija. Marija refuses to satisfy Vik's lust before their marriage and sets the pace for their fiery relationship in a town called The Richest Hill on Earth where men deemed Copper Kings make vast fortunes from mining the rich ore hidden beneath the gallus frames, triangles of steel that dotted the hills, drawing money out of Butte on the back of thousands of miners who work underground in horrendous conditions. While Vik finds his pleasure in the arms of a brothel madam, Marija educates herself and finds love, wealth and social status with her second husband. She reigns as Matriarch of her family. Her children become leaders in The Company, The Miners' Union, and The Church.
Like Butte, where the copper and zinc mined from the miles of tunnels beneath the city are melded together to become a stronger metal-brass-Marija and her family weather multiple hardships and merge from the crucible of adversity, stronger than ever before, though marked by their diverse experiences.