Cover Image: No Life for a Lady

No Life for a Lady

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Member Reviews

I wasn't sure what to expect of this book, but I'd heard about it on social media and figured it was time for a break from my usual diet of gruesome murder mysteries!

The story focuses on Violet Hamilton, a 28-year old woman living with her father in Hastings in 1896.  Her father has ideas about marrying her off, but Violet is much more interested in what happened to her mother who vanished from Hastings Pier ten years before.  An advert in the local paper leads her to engage the rather odd Frank Knight as private detective.  However, it isn't long before Violet becomes unhappy with Mr Knight's methods and takes matters into her own hands - with the sometimes unwilling help of Benjamin, son of a detective but who would rather have a quiet life selling furniture.

Violet was an absolute star!  I loved that she heartily resists marriage and follows her own path - I was really rooting for her to discover the truth about her mother.  I liked that revelations about her mother started to open Violet's mind to the ways of the world - she moves from naive to more knowing without losing any of her charm along the way.  

What made this book a joy to read was the humour - Violet's naivete was good source of comedy, but Dolby also has a sharp eye for situational comedy.  Violet's attempt to swap a footstall for some help from Benjamin was just lovely, as was the way that she engaged in a battle of wits with Mrs Monk.  Her revelations about the mushrooms also made me laugh so read it to see!

I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical mysteries - it's quite a gentle investigation with some larger-than-life characters on the way.  I wasn't totally sold on all the elements of the ending, but I was certainly glad that we seem poised to get another instalment of Violet's adventures.
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Set in the 19th century in Hastings and St. Leonard’s. This is a story how how women were restricted, especially those of a certain standing, in every way. The way they dressed, acted, conducted themselves and almost how to think.
Violet is 28, old by standards of not being married. Her father is keen for her to be married and brings home a ‘suitable’ selection of gentlemen that Violet knows in her own mind, she just doesn’t like, much to the frustration of her father.
Far from marriage being on Violet’s mind, is the disappearance of her mother 10 years prior.
She decides to hire a private detective Mr Knight who is odd to say the least and in desperation, finds a another detective Mr Blackthorn who having given up the profession, is determined not to take her case on. Violet being the strong minded woman she is, won’t take no for an answer.
It’s an easy read with humour and Violet’s determination and naivety gives you laugh out loud moments.
The story in many ways would appear to be quite modern touching on subjects no longer taboo but would have definitely happened in way described in the 19th century.
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This quirky, funny story is a romance, but it is also the story of a determined woman, a lot of steep streets, detection, the mysteries of male anatomy, the really mysterious mysteries of married (and unmarried) sex, evil obsession, a beard (well, a couple) and the sparkiest heroine who made me laugh out loud. From Hastings to Buxton, this was a delight from start to finish.
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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable romp through Victorian Hastings. Violet Hamilton is a great character and you root for her throughout, and I particularly enjoyed her determination to find out just what jiggery-pokery happens in the marriage bed. I did get slightly frustrated at the many fake obastacles put in the way of her and Benjamin but it's all in the name of a good romance. And the added element of her mother's mystery disappearance was a good narrative to drive the story forward.
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No Life for a Lady by Hannah Dolby transported me into the 1890’s, and our strong heroine Violet made that journey quite memorable!


Violet Hamilton is a woman who knows her own mind. Which, in 1896, can make things a little complicated…

At 28, Violet’s father is beginning to worry she will never find a husband. But every suitor he presents, Violet finds a new and inventive means of rebuffing.

Because Violet does not want to marry. She wants to work, and make her own way in the world. But more than anything, she wants to find her mother Lily, who disappeared from Hastings Pier 10 years earlier.

Finding the missing is no job for a lady, but when Violet hires a seaside detective to help, she sets off a chain of events that will put more than just her reputation at risk.

Can Violet solve the mystery of Lily Hamilton’s vanishing before it’s too late?

I am beyond thankful to Tandem Collective, Head of Zeus and Hannah Dolby, for letting me join this special readalong. I was lucky to receive an exclusive interactive readalong edition copy, full with QR codes, challenges and topics to discuss whilst reading the book. The format of the book was very interactive and although it distracted me a bit, I enjoyed finding out about this period in history. What people wore, what was popular at the time, how the streets and towns used to look like, what were people’s main professions, and most importantly, what were the women’s roles in society at this point in time.

First of all, Violet is an amazing character. She knows exactly what she wants(to find her mum) and also what she doesn’t want (to marry). She hires a detective to search for her mum, and she’s also quite busy rejecting men left, right and centre – much to the annoyance of her father. 

The more clues are being discovered, the more unsure Violet is about the investigation and the detective. She starts interacting with Mr. Blackthorn in the hopes that he would be a better detective for this case, but Mr. Blackthorn is set to give up that career path. 
The book highlights the era so well, the way women are treated in society and the audacity that men have.

No respect towards women (with exceptions), yet all they seem to care about is reputation. The part that hurt and angered me the most is the lack of freedom, and no freedom of choice. To be rejected for books in a library, to be denied education and a career, if you so wish to have… Yet they are able to get away with murder. In an environment like this, where all the odds are stacked against her, Violet was a breath of fresh air. I loved that she would stop at nothing to achieve the things she wants.Her determination, dedication and sense of humour made this book so enjoyable. The pace of the book started slowly at first, but then it picked up, and by the end I couldn’t stop turning the pages.
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A very unexpectedly  pleasant mystery set in the late 1800s. The mother of a young woman suddenly disappears without a trace. It is as if she vanished into thin air. After 10 years with her mother still missing, Violet Hamilton decides it is time to take matters in to her own hands and find her mother. Or rather, she decides to hire the first detective with a detective sounding name that she could find. Unfortunately for Violet, Mr, Knight was far from chivalrous and his motives not the most pure. The clues he was able to find of her missing mother painted her as a wonton woman who left her family willingly. Did she though?  What danger would Violet find herself in?  Would she ever find her mother?
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This was well written and all the characters were fantastic and relatable. This is the first book ive read by this author and i will definitely look out for others by her!
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General Thoughts 🤔

Historical fiction isn’t usually my jam, however the cover and synopsis of this one caught my attention and I was super keen to give it a go. It was Violet’s character that interested me the most and it was her character that I enjoyed the most about the book. We will come back to that in the next section though.

I loved the mystery aspect to this story and the little mini investigations that I was able to follow along the way. Violet found her niche in the lady detective world and I was 100% there for it.

Characters 👫👭👬

I immediately liked Violet and knew that she was going to develop into a character that I admired and wanted nothing but the best for. I was so happy to see her stand her ground and hold her own in situations when a female of that time wouldn’t usually do the same. I wish that she had been able to do so a little earlier with the dodgy detective, but at the same time I liked the way that the tension between them grew as the story progressed.

I had mixed feelings about Violet’s father. I think that he was a victim of being stuck between different generations. He wanted Violet to follow tradition, get married (to a man hand picked by him of course) but deep down I think he knew that that was never going to be his daughter. I think he admired her independence but worried for how Violet would be seen by others outside of their family home.

Writing Style ✍️

The reason I don’t read a lot of historical fiction is because I have stuck this stigma on it (yes me, I take all of the blame) that it’s not going to be relatable or it’s going to be boring or it’s not going to be engaging enough to keep me interested. What I really liked about Hannah Dolby’s writing was that this didn’t read like is was set in the 1800s and I often forgot that that was the case. Not only that, but when I was reminded, I wasn’t mad about it. There was plenty that was relatable within the story and I was definitely engaged.

Conclusion & Scoring 🎖

I really enjoyed this story and I loved following Violet on her little mini adventures that were all part of her big journey to becoming a Lady Detective.. She was such a fantastic character and completely carried the book. I loved her strong mindedness, independence and her total disregard for what anyone may have thought of her. If there was one reason I would recommend this book, it would definitely be Violet. A great book that was relatively easy to follow and entertaining throughout. I hope to read more from this author and also more about Violet.
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Dolby’s debut novel is the coming-of-age story of Violet, a young lady whose mother left her. Ten years have passed since Violet’s mother mysteriously left. Now at 28 years old (and becoming a spinster according to 1896’s social hierarchy), Violet has decided to take matters into her own hands and hire a private detective to help her uncover what happened to her mother. 

Dolby’s writing was engaging and clear. The characters were enjoyable, and it was a delight to see Violet grow into herself and become self-aware. While this book takes place in 1896, society still contrives to stifle a woman’s voice in many ways. Violet pushed against the constraints of her world and saw that everything might not be as she thought it was. She admits that she’s naïve but recognizes that she wants more from life, and that sentiment rings true for many women today. This book is also part mystery and romance—a perfect blend. 

I especially appreciated how Dolby ends the book. Flaws and insecurities were revealed and required contemplation for the characters. That was an appropriate way to end the book. I hope we will see more of Violet and that Dolby turns this into a series. I would gladly read every book!

Thank you to NetGalley and Aria for the ARC.
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Violet Hamilton doesn’t want to get married. Instead she would prefer to work. Her desire is to become a female detective, which isn’t such a popular idea in the 1800s. Violet has determination, though, and the result is an entertaining story and that will have you laughing, rolling your eyes at men’s opinions, and filled with hope at how just about anything is possible with enough determination.

Violet is determined to find her mom who left without a trace ten years ago. While many people think she is dead, Violet refuses to believe it. Her investigation, because the person she hired is taking his time or so it seems, leads her on quite an adventure with some very interesting characters along the way.

I am interested to see if this turns into a series with Violet as our sleuth.

Thank you to Aria and Aries for the copy of this book. All views are my honest opinion.
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No Life for a Lady by Hannah Dolby

I received an advance review copy for free thanks to NetGalley and Aria and I am leaving this review voluntarily.


It's remarkable how men react when women break the rules... but the people of Hastings are about to discover, women can be remarkable too...

1896. At 28, Violet's father is beginning to fear she will never marry. But every suitor he puts forward, she finds an increasingly creative way of rebuffing.

Because Violet is a woman who knows her own mind – and her mind is on her mother, who went missing 10 years earlier, vanishing from Hastings Pier without a trace.

Looking for the missing is not a suitable pastime for a lady. But when Violet hires a seaside detective to help, she sets off an unexpected chain of events that will throw her life into chaos.

Can Violet solve the mystery of Lily Hamilton's vanishing? Or will trying cost her more than she can afford to lose?

My Opinion

Violet wants to find out to her mother who had disappeared 10 years earlier, she enlists the help of a local detective to discover what happened on that night. Violet is not interested in finding herself a husband much to the annoyance of her father. Whilst this was not a book I would usually have chosen, it is a highly entertaining read. 

This book was one of those that while I thought I could put it down, I found myself picking it up a few minutes later to read a few more chapters. The first half of the book is slow, but the pace does pick up. 

Rating 4/5
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It is not bad. At first, I was really hooked and cannot wait what is going to happen next. But then, it become more boring and boring... 

I like the idea, but I was under impression that alll of that was, in fact, just flat. The characters were kinda boring and I was not engaged at all into their lives.

So... there is a potential here, but for me, it was just meeeh.

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No Life for a Lady is light-hearted, cosy historical mystery with a touch of romance from Hannah Dolby.

‘There are ladies who don’t like what they are made for, the cleaning and the domestic business, the caring and the mothering. We might think badly of them for it, but it does happen.’

Violet Hamilton would prefer a profession to a husband, at twenty-seven she continues to fend off the latter, much to her father’s disapproval, but is yet to find the former. In part this state of affairs stems from the sudden disappearance of her mother in 1886 when she was eighteen, and as the ten year anniversary approaches, Violet is determined to find out what happened to her. 

Discretely hiring a private detective is the first step but there is something about Frank Knight and his interest in her mother that Violet finds disturbing. An advertisement discovered by chance leads her to an another private eye, and though Benjamin Blackthorn initially turns her down, Violet eventually convinces him to help.

Violet is a likeable lead character. She chafes at society’s expectations but with the naivety of a well-raised lady. This means she is caught unawares more than once, but to her credit she is rarely discouraged and persists regardless. 

There are several amusing scenes, including Violet’s efforts to turn away unwanted suitors, discretely tail a gentleman with her chaperone in tow, and a picnic with unexpected nature views. I also enjoyed the banter between Violet and Benjamin. Their low key romance is a sweet feature of the novel. 

The mystery surrounding Violet’s mother’s disappearance plays out well, though I felt there were some small issues with the plotting, and the pacing was a little even. I enjoyed the reveal of the villain, and the drama of the conclusion.

No Life For a Lady is an engaging read with the potential to become a series.
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Violet Hamilton lost her mother 10 years ago, on the cusp of her come out.  As a result she has loved in solitude and melancholy since then, vowing never to marry.   She gets the idea she must find out what happens to her mother, and it leads to intrigue, new friends, and love.

His story has good bones, but the execution was painstakingly slow.  Just wanted it to move on with the action and discovery.
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A beach holiday has had me catching up with a set of fabulous novels which I've finally got round to reading. And enjoying!! Really enjoyed this one. Very original, a Victorian novel but with a difference and with a joyful and feisty protagonist to boot! Violet is just a dream!
There'a great writing, a great plot and a great mystery. Some oohs and ahs along the way, and definitely some laugh out loud moments.
Set in 1896, Violet is 28 and avoiding marriage for as long as she can. She has other ideas about how to spend her days, inventing rather strange charities to explain away the time she is, in reality, spending on a quite different pursuit!
Original, well written, 5* novel to get your teeth into!
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Violet is no lady to the society, is she? She craves for knowledge, for freedom and for a life with no marriage. But above all she longs for her mother who was missing for a very long time. If she has enough freedom, she would search for her mother across the world. The bare minimum she could do is to hire a detective but what she gained from it is not what she expected. She wanted to know her mother whereabout but she dont want to sacrifice her reputation.
It's a light mystery with a light humor story. It's a story which discover about life alongside Violet. There's a lot of things she doesnt know because there's limited knowledge for a lady. This book doesn't focus on violet's mother case only but it revolve with side cases. I love how it has a strong hook wigtout losing its momentum to connect a mystery to another. I didn't feel bored and the hook really got me reading non stop. This story deserves praise for its clean plot, messages and character build up.
If its not for the lack of the ending I would give 5 instead of 4.5 stars. It wasn't not good but it just wasn't strong enough. But still, I live thus book!
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It’s 1896 and Violet is still not married at the ripe old age of 28, her father is beside himself and worried his daughter is going to end up a dried up old shrew and it’s not for lack of trying. He’s brought multiple nice youngish men men home for her to meet but Violet’s not the marrying kind, she’s thoroughly modern woman who wants to work and make her own way but more than anything she wants to find out what happens to her beautiful charismatic mother who disappeared a decade ago. This was so much fun, Violet is fantastic and I love her so much, she’s stubborn and determined and easily distracted by hot guys doing physical labour and she’s not entirely sure why. Loved it!
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I loved this refreshing debut novel from Hannah Dolby, it was a joy to read and Violet was a wonderful character!

 Its 1896 and 28 year old unmarried Violet Hamilton lives with her father and runs their h0usehold - he is keen for her to settle down, but Violet wants nothing less than to be married - and puts off all possible suitors as soon as possible.
 Violet is independent and wants to find her own path through life though there are societal barriers in her way. Reading about her excitement at possibly using a typewriter brought home to me just how restricted life was for single women, as well as the power that her father had to limit her world by insisting on her having a chaperone to walk around town.

Violet's mother disappeared ten years ago, and Violet is desperate to find out what happened to her. The investigation takes her to various insalubrious corners of Hastings and St Leonards, finding out more about her mother's hidden past but will she ever be able to find out the truth?
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I had high hopes for this tale, but sadly, it failed to capture my imagination. I like my main characters with a little more gumption out of the gate.
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This was a fun and unique historical fiction. Violet’s journey to find her own way and the truth of her mothers history spun a unique tail and will make for good beach side reading this summer!

Featuring a strong, independent female, lead, and plenty of interesting and unique historical details. This book will easily capture your imagination and sweep your way.
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