Before Ariana Franklin started her Mistress of the Art of Death historical mystery series, she wrote excellent historical fiction novels under her real name of Diana Norman. I found out about Diana Norman from Jayne at Dear Author a long, long time ago. I went and bought up her back list. Many of her older fiction books are sadly, out of print and difficult to find and quite costly. I own all of her books and feel that she was definitely worth it to me. Hopefully, if she’s doing well sales-wise with her newer books, maybe her publisher will release her older titles someday?
But anyway, The Vizard Mask tells the story of Puritan Penitence Hurd, a young girl who has left America to find her mother in London. It’s also set during the Restoration Period. As that first sentence states,
Penitance Hurd and the Plague arrived in London on the same day.
The story is all about Penitence Hurd. I think the story spans 25 years opening with Charles II on the throne and ends with Mary of Orange. I read this book twice back to back and would still say that today this book would be a terrific read as it is certainly worth finding.
The scene: Once Penitence has arrived in London, she stays in a brothel called the Cock & Pie. Just like I mentioned earlier, the Plague has hit London hard. Penitence along with the actor, Henry King put on a play, something by Shakespeare called, Much Ado About Nothing, in order to distract the Watch. A family who were suspected of having the Plague are ‘Shut Up’ for 40 days & 40 nights and that was a death sentence. So the play is just a ruse for the family to make good their escape.
So, Penitence is rehearsing her part. She’s afraid she’s going to mess up things because she has a habit of stuttering. Henry King comes to her rescue and tells her to breathe:
The actor was in front of her now. ‘Breathe.’ She breathed, her eyes fixed on his.
“Who are you?”
“I am Beatrice.”
“Are you rich? Beautiful? Witty?”
“Who am I?”
“Do you love me?”
He extended his hand, palm-upwards. She put her own on it and together they walked out on to the balcony
The Vizard Mask is a historical fiction novel that was deeply moving, entertaining and memorable. It has a wonderful love-story along with other parts that were full of suspense and political intrigue. The Vizard Mask is one of my favorite books and while I quoted to you one my favorite scenes, there are plenty more where that came from. And yes, Henry King is one of the best heroes I’ve ever run across in fiction. He’s mysterious, witty, charming and he made an impact on Penitence’s life. Excellent book.
Note: I’ve read the following and recommend them highly: Blood Royal, A Catch of Consequence and Taking Liberties under Diana Norman. Ariana Franklin’s medieval mysteries are awesome as well as her stand alone novel, City of Shadows. Awesome writer all around.