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The Vizard Mask

4.25  ·  Rating Details ·  384 Ratings  ·  47 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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Nov 02, 2009 Misfit rated it really liked it
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.

Karen Brooks
Feb 04, 2016 Karen Brooks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I first started reading this long book, The Vizard Mask by Diana Norman, I didn’t think I’d be able to finish it. By the time I reached the 20% mark on my Kindle, I didn’t want it to end - so captivating was the story. The reason for my initial reaction was a combination of the style of writing (which is rich if not dense in detail) and the heroine, a Puritan named Penitence Hurd who, frankly, I couldn’t warm to at all. Not at first. Then she gripped my heart and didn’t let go…
Forced to lea
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
Nov 27, 2009 Beadyjan rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
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
Dec 31, 2014 Vibeke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 11, 2010 Rosina Lippi rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 25, 2012 Shannon rated it really liked it
A bit overly long in that so much happens over so many years, some of it interesting and some of it not, but still a good read. A great example of this time in history and all the cool things that happened in London.
Joanna Fraser
Nov 04, 2016 Joanna Fraser rated it liked it
I did really enjoy this book although I felt it was too long and the story really dragged on towards the end. The first two parts were brilliant (5*) however, especially descriptions of living through the plague in the rough parts of London. Really well written and just horrifying! Aphra Behn was an inspirational 'character'. I hadn't realised she actually existed until I checked Wikipedia after..
Mar 19, 2017 Alicia rated it liked it
This author also wrote the wonderful medieval Mistress of the Art of Death series, as Ariana Franklin. Since she died a couple of years ago, I've been reading her historical novels under the Diana Norman pen name. I always enjoy the historical detail: real people wander through the plot and you do get a good feel for the Restoration period and the court of the Merry Monarch contrasted with Puritan early America. Although the main character is based on real person, I didn't become fully invested ...more
Feb 01, 2015 Annie rated it really liked it
Writing historical fiction takes a certain amount of chutzpah. One has to take on nitpickers who will point out that this wasn’t in fashion at that time or that hadn’t been discovered yet. One also has to create room for characters in written history without turning them into Forrest Gump. The rewards, at least for readers, are absolutely worth it. Nothing else can bring history to life like a well drawn character living in a time and place that we only know from broad strokes in a textbook. The ...more
Kelly Ann
Oct 29, 2011 Kelly Ann rated it it was amazing
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
Lucy Crowe
Sep 26, 2014 Lucy Crowe rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 24, 2015 Katharine rated it really liked it
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
Patricia Gulley
Aug 26, 2014 Patricia Gulley rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 01, 2014 Bonnie rated it really liked it
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
Nov 17, 2012 scarlettraces rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 25, 2012 Alice rated it really liked it
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
Sep 09, 2012 Janice Russell rated it it was amazing
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
MB (What she read)
Feb 01, 2011 MB (What she read) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History novel lovers
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 24, 2012 Rhode rated it really liked it
Shelves: historic-fiction
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
May 22, 2011 Spitz rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
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
lynda rose williams
What an excellent read,I could hardly keep from having my nose in the kindle and only put it down when the battery needed a charge up. It really made me think how hard it was to keep body and soul together without having a man to depend on.

What an excellent read,I could hardly keep my nose out of my kindle
And only then when it needed charging. It made me realize how much women were dependent on men,where would I be in their circumstances
Mar 21, 2013 Momster2001 rated it did not like it
Shelves: don-t-bother
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.

Amy Yoakum
Jul 22, 2014 Amy Yoakum rated it it was amazing
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.
Megan Moore
Dec 31, 2015 Megan Moore rated it liked it
I REALLY wanted to love this book. I was hoping that it would be my new Forever Amber which I am obsessed with. The story is somewhat similar to Forever Amber but I felt this was hard to follow and a little dull at parts. There were times when I was very engaged in the story and other times when I was skimming through.
Feb 09, 2015 Jacqueline rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-paris
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.
Sep 26, 2015 Lia rated it really liked it
Each page leads you deeper into Restoration life, told through the vantage point of an actress, one of the few of her time. A totally immersive tale and my only fault with the novel is the slow going pace.
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.
Oct 30, 2014 Jody rated it it was amazing
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.
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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...

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