Cover Image: No Life for a Lady

No Life for a Lady

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Member Reviews

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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I really enjoyed this book. Charming, inspiring and gently humorous. At 28 Violet Hamilton is trying to find her way in the world of 1896. Her mother disappeared 10 years before leaving her with unanswered questions. Her father wants to marry her off but she is resisting as she wants to find her own way in the world. She employs a private detective to find out more about her mother’s disappearance but some of the evidence he finds leads her to question her memories of her mother and her parents’ marriage.

As the detective becomes difficult she tries to hire another one - Benjamin Blackthorn - a gentle giant who wants a quiet life selling furniture. Their lives become entwined and various mysteries are resolved.

A gentle read to be recommended.

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Late 1800s is a favorite genre of mine, and this book just brings more light to a favorite time period. This book is about rebellion, especially for its time period. A decent mystery, but fun enough read, this is definitely a book to pack on your spring.summer vacay or recommend to the book club.

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This book was so much fun! I think the turn of the century into the 1900s, right before the end of Queen Victoria's reign, is such an interesting time period to have for a setting, and it felt refreshing for this to be set outside of London as I feel like we rarely get a more rural Victorian perspective! Violet as a protagonist felt very relatable, despite being brought up in a society far removed from today, and I admired her determination to remain marriageless throughout, until the right person came along, and even then her priorities to become a Lady Detective remained first and foremost. No Life for a Lady did feel quite slow-paced at times, and I would've loved a bit more action compared to the constant irritations Violet faced with Mr. Knight, but overall it kept me very entertained.

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Thank you NetGalley for the advance copy.

This book was better than I thought it would be. Very funny and entertaining cozy mystery with a bit of romance.

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*I received a copy of this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for this opportunity.*

Violet Hamilton is content with her life as it is. She is determined to live her life exactly how she desires-- mostly avoiding high society ladies, taking long strolls on the beach, and deterring any gentlemen callers her father pushes onto her. However, with the ten year anniversary of her mother's mysterious disappearance, Violet has finally decided to take the plunge and hire a detective to find sorely needed answers.

What follows is an entertaining, if slow paced, piece of fiction with a cast of characters you can't help but grow to love. While not exactly historically accurate on most accounts, NO LIFE FOR A LADY is a lighthearted read perfect for a modern audience. Violet is an engaging main character not subject to the limitations of women during her time period-- her misadventures introduce her to a wider world, and, in turn, made for a fun and twisty story.

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I found this one very interesting and so difficult to my usual reading genre. A little bit quirky at times but very enjoyable. My thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in return for an honest review.

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In Hannah Dolby’s debut our heroine is delightfully clueless about sex and the like as she tries to figure out what happened to her mother who disappeared a decade earlier. This is charming as well as witty and I’m hoping that it’s going to turn out to be the first in a series. Hopefully enough people will buy it to make that happen because we have some savvy lady sleuths but not so many of the slightly bewildered by the the range of human behaviour ones and I would like more!

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In the first pages of #NoLifeforaLady, Violet, its nineteenth-century twenty-something heroine, sets out to find her mother, who disappeared a decade earlier. Her determination to solve this mystery is matched only by her desire to thwart her bumbling father's attempts to marry her off. She knows how to poke fun at herself, and her self-deprecating sense of humor and naïveté propel the reader through a series of intriguing adventures. I cheered Violet on and just had to know--will she find her mother? Will she find love? The book is enhanced by its beautiful, lyrical descriptions of Violet's home, an English seaside village, and the author's deep knowledge of flora and fauna adds depth. A lovely read.

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No Life for a Lady is a historical mystery set toward the end of the 19th century. Cosy crime readers will enjoy the slow pace and the transition of the protagonist from sheltered spinster to independent professional.

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It’s remarkable how men react when women break the rules.

No Life for a Lady is Hannah Dolby’s first novel and has since been declared “the most joyful book of 2023”. Published in March 2023, it quickly gained critical acclaim and praise worldwide. A historical mystery, it covers a range of topics from feminism to marriage to the roles we play in society.


The story follows Violet Hamilton, a 28-year-old woman, unmarried and all but ostracised from polite society. Her father worries that she’ll never find a husband as she continuously rebuffs every suitor, and her mother disappeared ten years previous – a mystery that Violet is adamant to solve. Hiring a so-called detective sets off a string of events that puts more than just her own reputation at risk. But she’s a woman who knows her own mind, and she refuses to give up her search for the mother who vanished without a trace. Can she finally solve the mystery of Lily Hamilton? Or will the search cost her more than she can afford to lose?


No Life for a Lady is a funny, adventurous story perfect to read in one sitting!

- There are numerous plot twists that keep you on your toes and completely unsure as to what will happen next. It makes the story enjoyable and entertaining as the mystery unfolds right in front of your eyes.
- It has the perfect blend of murder-mystery and social-criticism. Dolby was able to expertly weave the problems of the patriarchy and misogynism into this story without it feeling forced, leaving the reader curious and engaged in equal measure.
- It’s realistic in the sense of how society is portrayed. Characters are complexly developed, and the hero doesn’t always win. Unfortunately, this does lead to a lack of happy endings for more than one person, but seeing the harsh realities of life make the book a satisfying read despite that.

- The beginning of the book is flat and uninspiring, and admittedly, I considered giving up there and then. However, despite its rocky start, it does improve, and by the end of the story, I was fully captivated!
- Speaking of the end of the story, the so-called “resolution” comes swiftly and suddenly and isn’t entirely satisfactory. The story also ends right before you want it to, so be prepared to have follow-up questions once you’ve finished reading it.
- The protagonist of the story, Violet, is incredibly naive and does not significantly develop as a character throughout the novel. The added disadvantage is that this story is told through her eyes in the first-person narrative, and given her wide-eyed personality, it’s annoying at times to see something so blatant that Violet herself doesn’t understand.


Overall, I’d give Hannah Dolby’s No Life for a Lady a three out of five. If Bridgerton met Enola Holmes, then this is what you’d get!

I’d recommend this novel to fans of period dramas or Victorian detective fiction, as it combines all of the glamour and expectations of an 1800s debutant with the gritty realism of Hercule Poirot’s whodunit. If you’re looking for a light-hearted and engaging mystery, then this is the book for you!

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The plot of this novel focuses on a woman who is searching for her mother after she disappeared 10 years ago. She hires a private detective who is not what he seems, and finds out all kinds of things about her mother that she did not suspect. This book seemed to drag on and had some surprise twists and turns but it just did not work for me.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC.

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No Life For A Lady is the first novel by British author, Hannah Dolby. Ten years after her mother Lily goes missing from Hastings Pier, twenty-eight-year-old Violet Hamilton engages a private investigator to find out what happened. Frank Knight isn’t quite what she expected of a detective, but he has agreed not to tell her father: Lucas Hamilton would be livid…

But what he uncovers has Violet concerned that he has little regard for her mother’s, and her own reputation. It’s quickly clear that she did not know her mother as well as she had thought, but when she tries to get Knight to halt his investigation, he refuses.

Violet really misses her mother: “Without her protection, her wisdom, men and courtship were like navigating stormy seas in a boat full of holes. It was safer to reject them all.” As Violet deftly dodges the prospective husbands that Lucas parades before her, while trying to (rather badly) run a household, she learns of another detective in town.

Benjamin Blackthorn immediately strikes her as much more trustworthy than Knight, but he is recovering from a broken leg and insists it was his father, Bernard who was the detective: he now only sells furniture. And he’d never take another detective’s case. Violet, though, is persistent and has soon managed to convince him that she can interview prospective female clients and even carry out investigative work for him. And just maybe, she can eventually convince him to look for her mother.

Some of those investigations turn out to be real eye-openers for a sheltered young spinster: tailing a woman’s fiancé, breaking into a museum, visiting a brothel, and foiling a theft; but “I wanted to find my mother. I wanted to fill my life with something useful, and not be afraid of living. I wanted to know about life, and not be wrapped and smothered in cotton wool because I was a woman.”

There’s a good deal of humour in this tale, as well as a cute twist, a very dramatic climax, and plenty of scope for further stories featuring this cast. An enjoyable and entertaining cosy crime debut.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Aria & Aries.

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this one was a slow start but once it found it's feet it turned into a really enjoyable read. definitely recommend giving this one a read.

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“I lit on the idea of a detective when I was reading through his collection of adventure books. There was a series about a detective called Sherlock Holmes, an odd but freakishly clever man, and a collection of short stories by a Catherine Louisa Pirkis about a Lady Detective called Loveday Brooke.”

My thanks to Head of Zeus Aria & Aries for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘No Life for a Lady’ by Hannah Dolby. I have since purchased its ebook and audiobook editions.

The protagonist of this delightful debut historical novel set in 1896 is Violet Hamilton, who at 28 has become quite adept at finding new and inventive ways of rebuffing the suitors that her father presents to her.

It’s clear that Violet has no interest in marrying. She would much prefer to work and make her own way in the world, though such an ambition is difficult in Victorian society for a young woman of her class. More than anything, Violet wants to find her mother Lily, who disappeared from Hastings Pier 10 years earlier.

Violet hires private detective Frank Knight though when he proves ineffective she begins her own investigation setting off a chain of events that puts more than her reputation at risk.

This novel proved so much fun and felt very true to its period setting in terms of Violet having to tread carefully as she began to pursue her dream of becoming a ‘lady detective’. Along the way she meets up with the rather lovely Benjamin Blackthorn, whose father had been a well respected local private detective.

However, he has decided not to follow his father’s profession and is now running a secondhand furniture shop. That doesn’t stop locals from asking for his help or indeed Violet from hoping that he will aid her.

There are some laugh out loud moments such as when Violet is taken under the wing of Mrs Monk, a woman with ‘a past’. She endeavours to address Violet’s concerns about ‘that’ aspect of marriage. Oh how very innocent Violet is. Alongside the fun there is a fair amount of suspense especially as the tale reaches its dramatic conclusion.

Overall, I found ‘No Life for a Lady’ a joyful novel and an impressive debut. While the story is complete in itself I do rather hope for a sequel or even a series.

Highly recommended to lovers of cosy historical mysteries with a touch of romance.

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The year is 1896 when life was more complicated than it is now especially for women.

Aged 28, main character Violet is seen as an old spinster and her father is concerned that she won’t settle down and get married, but Violet isn’t interested in that life – she wants to work and be independent – which didn’t really happen in that era.

Violet sets out to discover what happened to her mother who disappeared ten years previously, and as this is no job for a lady, Violet hires a detective but is this the best thing to do, and is she taking the lid off Pandora’s box?
This was a nice gentle read, something that you’d pick up on a Sunday afternoon with the rain beating down outside – it will whisk you away to another lifetime with characters that you will warm to.

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This book couldn't have been any *more* my cup of tea!

I loved it from start to finish. I quickly warmed to Violet Hamilton - she's warm, hilarious, determined... everything you want in a heroine!

Hannah Dolby does a fantastic job of bringing 1896 Hastings to life. The historical details made the novel and always felt light-touch. I was wholly engrossed in Violet's world as she set about solving the mystery of her disappearing mother and finding her own way in the world.

This book really had me chuckling. It was sweet, touching, poignant and redemptive. I think it's certain to be a hit with fans of A J Pearce - I'll definitely be reading whatever Hannah Dolby writes next!

Many thanks to Head of Zeus, Hannah Dolby and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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