Like many of her fictional contemporaries in Victorian London, Astra Padgett does not like being dependent on her landed brother-in-law, forced to be governess to his kids. So, when the man she's had her eye on proposes elsewhere, she ups and enlists with Miss Florence Nightingale--much to the dismay of the gentry. But suddenly we are in Vienna instead of Nightingale's Crimea, involved in various incomprehensible turns in the state relations between Austria and Poland. The doctor whom Astra goes to work for disappears mysteriously, and she has to take service as nurse-companion to the noble Count Kulaski. Soon he is paralyzed and near death from an assassination attempt; he marries her on his deathbed for dubious reasons and then, as she falls for him, he recovers--but is involved with his gorgeous cousin Eugenia. Furthermore, his brother Karl is revealed to be mixed up with assorted attempted assassinations, and, at the ancestral castle, someone is trying to poison Astra. A tangled web with many loose ends; a Polish joke with no punch line.