by Victoria Holt
According to ancient Black Forest legend, on the Night of the Seventh Moon, Loke, the God of Mischief, is at large in the world. It is a night for festivity and joyful celebration. It is a night for singing and dancing. And it is a night for love.
Helena Trant was enchanted by everything she found in the Black Forest -- especially its legends. But then, on the Night of the Seventh Moon, she started to live one of them, and the enchantment turned suddenly into a terrifying nightmare . . .
My (admittedly limited) experiences with Victoria Holt have been very uneven. The first book (The Silk Vendetta) did not impress me, but Mistress of Mellyn and Bride of Pendorric were both enjoyable. On the Night of the Seventh Moon falls somewhere between the dull Silk Vendetta and the more interesting "Cornish Gothics"-- nothing anywhere near approximating "brilliant", but also not quite as plodding as Silk Vendetta.
Though I suppose I'll award it three out of five stars, the third is rather grudgingly given, as I found myself disliking most of the characters and (more often than not) wishing the book would just hurry up and come to its conclusion. It felt long, which means it was boring me instead of whisking me away from reality, as a good book should do.
Unfortunately, the romance is very thin, and the "hero" is a handsome, lust-filled cardboard cut-out-- not very interesting. The heroine, Helena, isn't much better. You get to know her more as a character than you do Maximilian, I suppose, but-- but-- she's just so darn stupid! There are so many times that Helena should pick up on things, but she just won't/can't... Toward the end of the story, the Count says to her, "You are not your usual clever self today." Well, that was a delicious bit of unintentional comedy!
I'll probably continue to read Holt, as the mood strikes me, but I'm wary. The quality varies wildly from one book to the next. This one, for me, was closer to the "dud" end of the scale.
Specifics (with SPOILERS):
--Different times and all that, but it's just so gross when the male characters in a so-called romance are trashy philanderers who have fathered children with multiple women. When Frau Graben fills Helena in on all the dirty details of the Count's history with women, it's clear that Maximilian has a similarly icky past. ("My dear Miss Trant, he[the Count]'s only following the tradition. They've always been for the women. They see them, they fancy them and there's no holding them back. If there are results they don't mind and nor do the women.") Maximilian apparently hasn't been quite so cruel or duplicitous in his dealings with women, but it's still not appealing in a hero.
--After all the drama about how Maximilian couldn't just publicly declare his marriage to Helena because it could ignite a war between the principalities (or whatever the heck they were-- forgive my lack of knowledge of or interest in German history)-- after all that, the extremely delicate situation is handled neatly and tidily in a single paragraph. "The Prince of Klarenbock, to whom Maximilian had told the whole story during his visit there, behaved magnanimously." ...Well, how convenient. The supposedly serious threat of the people revolting against Maximilian goes "poof", too. Everything is hunky-dory, because there was a war with France-- and war heals all wounds (or something).
--Even richer, Maximilian's fancy fake wife gets tossed into a convent to atone for her sins, while her son with Maximilian is raised in the big, happy family Maximilian and Helena create. Ah yes, I'm sure that was never the least little bit awkward, and I'm positive that the son who had been raised for (eight?) years to believe he was "royalty" was now perfectly fine with his new position as an illegitimate son whose father never really loved his mother-- while said mother is apparently whisked out of his life without so much as a backward glance. Good times.
Okay, I'll grant you that much of the tension would be washed away by the fact that Maximilian's position is no longer nearly so powerful, by the end of the book. There's not so much of a grand inheritance or position of power to bicker (or hatch murderous plots) over-- otherwise, I would've predicted trouble from Dagobert, who also becomes a part of Helena's Perfect Family (along with Liesel).
...But still, even in the humblest of homes, wouldn't there be a certain amount of bitterness in such a truly weird "blended family"? "Mom always liked you best" on steroids!