by Shanyn Hosier
Spoiler Alert! If you don’t want to learn any details about the ending of these stories, go check out Ariana Franklin’s Mistress Of The Art Of Death series before reading further.
I recently got sucked into Ariana Franklin’s Mistress Of The Art Of Death series. Set in Henry II’s England, it’s a sort of CSI: Medieval Europe, where the heroine is a physician specializing in autopsy. (Before you panic about anachronism, it’s all very believably explained in her backstory, hailing from Salerno in the Kingdom of Sicily, where female doctors have been historically documented during that brief time.) Fans of Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael series would likely enjoy these for the same reasons.
The series is four books deep, and I was steaming right along, loving it, until the end of the fourth (published 2010)—literally the last page or two. The heroine is about to be stabbed by the villain, and the hero swoops in to save her, taking the knife in his back. The final paragraphs portray her fear and desperation at the prospect of losing the man she’s spent 4 books in love with, then her medical training starts kicking in, and she goes from hopelessness (The love of my life is bleeding out in my arms!) to cautious optimism (Maybe not… lungs and major arteries seem to be intact…). Then the book ends as a group of the heroine’s friends help her carry the hero off on a stretcher toward her parents’ home.
Yep. That’s it. We don’t know if the hero lives or dies. Helluva cliffhanger, don’tcha think?
With minor irritation, I hopped online to see when the next installment of the series could be expected. My gut told me the hero would survive, but then again, the author took pains to set up a potential love triangle in this, the fourth book. Maybe she was getting tired of the hero (theirs was a stormy relationship) and wanted to set the heroine up for something new. I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt…
Only to find out Diana Norman, writing as Ariana Franklin, passed away in 2011. (Also unbeknownst to me, thanks to multiple pen names, she wrote another series I really enjoyed—the Makepeace Hedley stories.) I was crushed to learn there would be no more of one of my favorite heroines I’ve ever read! I’ll never know if Adelia nurses Rowley back to health, or if she finds consolation for her grief in the arms of The O’Donnell. I’ll never again peer over her shoulder as she examines a corpse, searching for clues to his death.
I wish I had known this was a series interruptus before I began the first book. I could have better prepared myself for the disappointment of a non-ending ending. I wish I’d guarded my affections against these characters. But no, they’re wormed deeply inside my brain now, dammit. And I mourn them as well as the intriguing mind that dreamt them into being.
So thank you, Diana Norman, for creating so many lovely stories, so many interesting worlds, so many vibrant characters in your lifetime. RIP.
Shanyn Hosier adores reading and writing in the same way she loves breathing and eating, deriving a similar nourishment from each. Her latest two novels, An Experimental Phase and Theory Versus Practice, are available in ebook format on Amazon. For more information about current and upcoming releases, please visit her website, www.shanynhosier.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.