Zdenka Waldner is a Countess, her family live on a farm in the country, but unfortunately they are about to lose it all because of her father’s gambling debts, so the family decide to go to Vienna where her sister Arabella can début into society and hopefully find a handsome and rich husband who will help to solve all their problems. Matteo Von Ritter is Lieutenant with the Kavalier Regiment in the Austrian army and has just come back from the Battle of Königgratz where he and his regiment have been injured in a brutal battle and he is still recovering from his injuries when he attends his Aunts social event, he is only there to support her, but when he is introduced the the belle of the ball, suddenly things don’t seem as bad.
As Zdenka and Arabella prepare for another event in the social butterfly’s calendar, Zdenka is as usual dressed in men’s clothing and acting as Arabella’s chaperone as her younger brother, although maybe she is enjoying her freedom a little too much despite the pressure on them to find Arabella a good match before the final event of the season. As they approach their destination, they pass an elderly man on the stairs who trips, but they also see that a handsome soldier helps him back to his feet, at least there are some good people still in the world, unlike some of the suitors who are arrogant and only wanting of a pretty trophy to marry rather than a woman who has her own mind. That is until the hostess introduces the pair to her nephew who just happens to be the soldier from the staircase, Zdenka is quite taken with him, but it appears he is also quite taken, but not with her, much to her disappointment, with her sister. Meanwhile Matteo is trying his hardest to get through the event with his sanity in place, but the people are loud and obnoxious and albeit the music is pleasant, he feels the need to soothe himself with alcohol, that is until he meets the fair Arabella and makes her acquaintance. As the evening passes and he gets to know her a bit more, he is slightly annoyed at how her brother is always hovering, although he isn’t unpleasant to look at either which is disturbing to Matteo as he has never felt like that towards another male and this makes him even more uncomfortable, if that is even possible.
Later on Matteo speaks with his cousin and together they devise an elaborate plan for Matteo to show his interest in Arabella via her brother and so a scheme is started where Matteo will bond with Zdenka, in order to gain favour with her sister, however, as a friendship begins to blossom and they learn more about each other and what they want out of life, Zdenka to run her families farm and Matteo to help the veterans of war when nobody else will, Zdenka is realising that it is becoming harder to hide that she is not in fact male and add that to the fact that Matteo cannot abide lies and liars and she is both, but as letters begin to be exchanged, little does Matteo realise that he is actually conversing and falling in love with Zdenka and not Arabella.
Will Arabella and Zdenka’s elaborate hoax be discovered and what will this mean for them and the family farm, will they be able to save it, or will they lose the only home they have ever known? What will Matteo do when he finds out about the deception, will he accept the truth, or will this finally be the final straw which breaks his heart forever? This is a fabulous retelling of a famous opera, but with an alternate storyline which is as compelling as the original one.
Review by @roxsannel