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The Vizard Mask

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  249 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Penitence Hurd and the Plague arrived in London on the same day...

Bound up in righteousness as tight as a parcel, she journeys from Puritan America to find her aunt, and steps into a city full of rogues, hell-fire and fleshly pleasures. When she discovers her aunt is running a brothel in St Giles-in-the-Fields, Penitence has no option but to point out the wickedness.

The Pl
Paperback, 704 pages
Published 1995 (first published 1994)
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It's 1664 and Puritan Penitence Hurd arrives from America armed with nothing but her faith, a bag filled with wampum and tobacco and the address of her long lost aunt. The address takes her to the Cock and Pie on Dog Street, a brothel with a Madam who goes by the moniker of "Her Ladyship". Told that her aunt is long gone and most likely dead and with no where else to go Penitence accepts a position as seamstress as Her Ladyship is surprisingly reluctant to allow her to whore like the others. Pla ...more
I've heard about this book for years, and on several occasions gone to buy it. For whatever reason I did not. When it came our in e-book format I no longer had an excuse and down loaded it yesterday. Now after a sleepless night I am finished, and everything I was ever told about this book is true. It is terrific! 5 stars and its gone on my forever keeper shelf, because I know I will read this again and again.

Kristen McDermott
Very very glad that the much-missed Diana Norman's earlier out-of-print novels are making their way into e-format, but sad that this particular one is apparently a scanned version -- many many typos. But it's entirely worth it for this huge, satisfying novel that captures the romance, squalor, creativity, and chaos of the Restoration era, with an unblinking depiction of the horrors of London life for the poor and for women of ill repute. Penitence is a carefully drawn character based on the almo ...more
I really liked this book. I'll write more about that shortly, but first a word about the ebook edition, which I bought for $4.99 on Amazon. It's clearly a book created from a scan of the printed book, and IT HAS NOT BEEN FORMATTED OR PROOFREAD. The text is littered with errors. There are no scene breaks, which was really confusing at times. This ebook version is so poorly done that I feel the $4.99 is a ripoff. It's shameful--disrespectful to readers and to the author, who's passed away and had ...more
Rosina Lippi
Norman's historical novels aren't very well known in the US, but they should be. This is a great story, well written. Penitence Hurd is a Puritan from America who makes the journey back to Charles II's London, and finds herself very out of place. She struggles through, makes a place for herself and friends, and is caught up in the plague panic. Highly recommended.
I did enjoy this one but not as much as The Mistress of Death by the same author using a pen name. I did find myself lost a few times with POV changes and the history, though an essential part of the story, was a lot. Hard to believe that the main character was a Puritan, friend to the Native Americans, actress, etc. She was a Superwoman of a character.

Just felt as if this might have been a first effort -- not with the period details which were riveting, but with character development. You could
The absorbing story of Penitence Hurd who arrives in London from New England at the same time as the Plague. How Penitence survives the Plague to make a new life for herself in Restoration London makes for very gripping reading with some wonderfully tense moments. The hard choices that she had to make to support herself felt very believable and highlighted the difficult position women without a male protector would have had at that time. Penitence's story was cleverly woven in with real characte ...more
Lucy Crowe
The Vizard Mask is epic! And it seems to me there are far too few books like this out there any more. This is a huge story, spanning thirty years and well over six hundred pages - wars, plagues, and in particular the life of one little Puritan girl who undergoes a number of very interesting life changes. Penitence Hurd arrives in London with the plague, makes her home in the most unlikely of places, and falls in love. But I've read a few of this author's books, and they all have in common some p ...more
Wow, the thinking womans bodice ripper! What a really great and wide ranging historical novel this was.

This lusty tale tells us about the life of Penitence Hurd brought up as a Puritan in Massachusetts, who arrives in England alone and virtually penniless to search for an aunt she's never met.

There is so much depth to this story which transcends it above the run of the mill poverty to passion tales.

Her journey begins in a poverty ridden rookery in London where her Aunt rurns out to be a Madam ru
Kelly Ann
This was an amazing novel! I felt like I was there in the 1600's with Pen. I felt love, fear, heartbreak and all those emotions you don't normally feel when reading just any book. AND the book just isn't leaving my mind. It was refreshing to read a book that featured an actress instead of the normal noblewoman. The struggle/survival in a mans world where woman are considered slaves who are excepted to give men pleasure and entertainment is the theme with women fighting back for independence and ...more
Amy Yoakum
Mistress of the Art of Death and all follow-up texts were wonderful. I was sad to hear about the author's passing, but pleased that there were several books under this pseudonym I was not aware of. I just finished the Vizard Mask and found it to be delightful. Well researched and rich detail made the story, period, and misery of the time come alive for me. I am looking forward to finishing her other books.
This is one of the few books I read several times and which I could still read again. I am aware I am not talking about a literary masterpiece but it had the same effect on me. I loved everything in it : from the struggle of a fierce, independent, ahead-of- her-time heroine, to the meanders of 17th-century London pervaded by plague and poverty.It is my feel-good book.
Patricia Gulley
I wanted to read this book because Diana Norman is the real name of Ariana Franklin, who wrote the Mistress of the Art of Death series.
A Puritan (and have I changed my opinions of them) arrives back in England where she was born to find an aunt because a head man back in Massachusetts wants to label her a witch when escapes his sexual clutches.
Quite a bit of history from the plague during Charles II through James II to William and Mary. The plight of women, how one woman survives it all.
As a big fan of the late Diana Norman's series under her Nom de Plume Ariana Franklyn, I was looking forward to reading the book sent to me by a good friend who had enjoyed it immensely. It took a couple of chapters to really get in to it but once I did I found it to be a well-written historical page-turner which kept me entertained. Through the life of it's heroine, Penitence Hurd, it chronicles the changing atmosphere of restoration England, starting with the Plague of 1665, progressing throug ...more
Janice Russell
An arresting portrait of Restoration England and the people who struggled within it for a better world. The heroine in this one is Penitance Hurd, raised in Puritan New England, who had a harrowing childhood including accusations of witchcraft, before fleeing on a ship to England. I'm afraid of revealing too much beyond that, so will sum up by saying her experiences in England were beyond challenging.

Sadly, most of the books this author published under her real name, Diana Norman, have gone out
possibly the most polemic of Norman's books (Daughter of Lir's loopiness dilutes the message a little, in my opinion). i remember having trouble with the prostitution theme when i was a lot younger and a lot more puritan - kind of like the young Penitence - but it makes sense now. my issue is not with the topic but the length. as with all her longer novels, i found my interest falling off a little towards the end. on the other hand, from the plague/fire to the glorious revolution is a lot of gro ...more
MB (What she read)
Mar 28, 2011 MB (What she read) rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History novel lovers
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jean Gobel
One of the best books I have read. The Plague, the Fire of London, the uprising, great history of theatre and early actors/actresses, how difficult it was for women to be independent. A great read, recommend highly.
I love this book. I picked it up and read it about twenty years ago and have read it again a few times since and enjoy it each time.
I love Diana Norman. She balances social injustice and misery with romantic love and spirited characters. With this 800 page novel, the balance is weighted more toward misery--specifically the plague and fire in London in the Restoration age of Charles II. I wanted to find out what happened, but my dread of reading about the inevitable further catastrophes awaiting the heroine was strong. The most famous real life characters in this one are Aphra Behn and Prince Rupert of the Rhine. Very colorfu ...more
Great story, a little lengthy perhaps.
Although I very much enjoyed it, and many of the details have a ring of historical accuracy, the main character does not. Although this is supposedly least loosely based on a real historic figure, too many obvious things are wrong. For example Peg's hair was dark brown in real life, not blonde, and she spent her retirement gambling, not farming.

As a fictional character she's a good solid heroine though.

Anyone interested in a backstage view on the history of women in the theater should enjoy th
I ended up putting this book down after reading 350 pages. I was only half way through and was bored. I turned to Ken Follett Fall of the Giants for a book that has everything The Vizard Mask doesn't have. It isn't perfect either but its fun and keeps me coming back. I am thrilled that after 400 pages I still have hundreds left to savor.

What a disappointment from Ms. Norman. I am relieved that I have learned to put a bad book down.

This book was the beginning of a long term love affair with the hist fic of Diana Norman. I wish there were a hundred more. Her heroines are smart, resourceful and plucky. They are also very believable.
Robin Budd
Beautifully written, great characters. But far too much squalor for my taste. A little squalor as a setting is fine, but when it becomes an end in and of itself, you lose me. I didn't finish.
I really really loved this book. I disliked history at school and love earning my history this way - through a racy pacey novel based very much on the real events of the time. Perfect.
the first historical novel that stuck in my head. with characters like APHRA BEHN. set around the time of the great fire of london & the plaugue just bursting with history.
4.5 stars really but very close to perfection. Please see my full review here on my blog:
Frieda Perry
I love Diana Norman as Ariana Franklin, but not so much as herself, from the first 20% of The Vizard Mask. Will move on to "greener" pastures.
Feb 20, 2013 Folliesgirl14 marked it as to-read
Just checked Amazon marketplace for a used copy of this...prices start at $46.95! WTF?
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

British journalist Diana Norman also writes as Ariana Franklin.

Born Mary Diana Narracott, she grew up first in London and then in Devon, where her mother took her to escape the blitz. At the age of 15, she left school, but with journalism in her background (her father had be
More about Diana Norman...
A Catch of Consequence Taking Liberties The Sparks Fly Upward The Morning Gift Blood Royal

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