When eighteen-year-old Ellen accepts the post of housekeeper at Hallendorf School of Music, Drama and Dance she wasn't expecting it to be quite so unusual. For deep in the beautiful Austrian countryside, she finds an eccentrically magical world occupied by wild children and even wilder teachers, experimental dancers and a tortoise on wheels. Ellen is particularly intrigued by the enigmatic, and very handsome, Marek, part-time gardener and fencing teacher. Life in Hallendorf seems idyllic, but outside Hitler's Reich is already casting its menacing shadow over Europe. Through her growing friendship with Marek, Ellen begins to encounter the dreadful reality of a world on the brink of war. And by the time she has figured out Marek's true identity and his dangerous mission, she is completely in love with him - and equally sure that her love will never be requited.