On the Night of the Seventh Moon

Forest of Doubt….

Helena Trant has always felt a special fascination for the myths and legends of Southern Germany, where she is living. So, lost in the forest one day, she feels little surprise when a handsome stranger appears and leads her to safety – there is a Prince Charming in all good fairy stories.

But this idyll suddenly becomes a nightmare. The passionate love that grows between Helena and her rescuer seems destined to inspire hatred, treachery, even murder in others. And as Helena draws near to the source of the evil that nurses them, she begins to feel that there will be no happy ending to her story.

Written by Victoria Holt. First published in the UK by Wm. Collins 1973. This edition Fontana Books 1974.

My mum was a big fan of Historical Romances by writers like Anna Seyton and Victoria Holt so even today I get a ‘grown up’ feeling reading these books. I saw this in our local secondhand book store and couldn’t resist the cover so thought I’d give it a go.

The scene is set when our teenage heroine wanders off from her convent school picnic and finds herself lost in the  deep dark woods of Southern Germany. From out of nowhere a tall, handsome stranger appears to carry her away into the ‘safety’ of his hunting lodge. What follows is a night of romance and intrigue where our innocent Helena very nearly loses more than her heart. But, thanks to the quick thinking and eagle eye of the trusty old servant  Hildegarde, her honour is kept intact and the very next day she is delivered safe and sound back into the arms of the worried nuns entrusted to look after her.

Of course she cannot get her handsome stranger, who calls himself Siegfried,  out of her mind, so imagine her delight when once again they meet up during a mid-summer festival of madness known locally as the Night of the Seventh Moon. This time our couple  are determined to consummate their love, so, within just a couple of days, they are married; ready, willing and able to embark on a honeymoon blissfully ensconced in the very same lodge they spent that fateful first night together.

And then, just a few days later, Helena wakes up. In her cousins house. To be told she has been delirious since returning from the woods on the night of the festival, a ravaged wreck, driven half insane by the terrible crimes inflicted on her. No one will listen to her fantastic story of  marriage to the love of her life and their fateful few days together. Plied with drugs and surrounded by disbelieving well-wishers, soon even Helena begins to doubt her own sanity. She returns to her home town of Oxford to recuperate, a shadow of her former self.

Some years later she returns to Germany, hired as a governess teaching English to the children of Count Ludwig of Lokenburg. Back in the land of haunted forests and midsummer madness, the castle’s household start preparations for the return of their Prince and when Helena finally meets him, she can’t believe her eyes or her luck. But little does she realise, her problems are only just beginning.

Seventh Moon started off great – I loved the atmosphere created by the tension in the relationship between the central characters – Helena’s almost obsessive love for this shadowy figure, to whom she is irrestitibly drawn but who you just don’t know whether to trust or not. Ultimately the  book was let down by the too pat, too happy ending- though overall the writing was very good and the story wonderfully twisted. A dark, brooding tale of longing and passion –  peppered with dark forests, haunted castles and Germanic folklore. Four out of five stars.

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I was completely entranced by “On the Night of the Seventh Moon” when I read it for the first time in my teens! It started an interest for everything German. It was with me for many years, like a secret dream, a secret promise of another world, other possibilities… far into adulthood, in fact. For example, I do not think I would have ever bothered to learn German, or learn a a lot about German history, or visit the German-speaking countries so many times, if it had not been for this novel. It was my driving force and my secret joy!

    Every time I went to visit the Black Forest, and other parts of Germany and Austria, I thought ot fhis novel…. Once I took part in an EU project called “Lingua C”, which took me to Austria to work as a teacher. And then of course I thought about Helena, when she went back to Germany to work as a teacher! I felt very romantic! 🙂

    Of course I always became disappointed, because the Germans, Austrians etc. I met dit not look a bit like Maximilian. The school I worked in in Austria was of course not situated in a castle, and the pupils were not a bit interesting. It was an ordinary, boring concrete elementary school, just like at home…

    And not even walking in the Black Forest myself, finally, in reality, I could recapture the magic atmosphere from the book… It was just an ordinary forest. But this is the curse of all novel-reading and day-dreaming, isn’t it..! 🙂

    (I am Swedish, by the way.)

    • Hi Catharina, thanks for sharing your experiences of this novel. It’s so true that real life rarely manages to live up to the worlds created by our favourite books, and, I think, it’s a credit to the skill of the writers who create them.
      Having said that, I’m surprised you felt underwhelmed by the Black Forest! Can any forest be described as ordinary? They’ve always been such magical places for me.
      Anyway, thanks for your comment and come by again soon!

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