No Life for a Lady by Hannah Dolby – Book Review

Aside from knowing it was historical fiction, I wasn’t sure what to expect from No Life for a Lady when I picked it up. So I’m delighted to say that it was such a joy to read. The perfect choice to brighten up a grey January weekend (when I read it), it blended really funny plot moments with a hugely likeable lead character in Lady Violet Hamilton.

Opening sentence: It was hot, the night my mother disappeared.

The life of a Lady

Set in 1896, Violet lives in Hastings on the English south coast with her father, a repressed and authoritative bank manager. Violet may be a Lady but she has no intention of marrying and living the life expected of her, for a few reasons. When Violet was 18 her mother, Lily, disappeared and ten years later, when No Life for a Lady is set, it is still something that aches on Violet’s heart and mind.

The thought had not occurred to me so strongly before, that the mother I found might not be the one I had lost.

So, she decides to try and do something about it and hires a private detective – Frank Knight – to find out what happened to her mother. The thing is, Frank Knight isn’t a very good detective, Violet is sure she could do a better job herself. The thought appeals to her…

She finds another detective in town, Benjamin Blackthorn, who just happens to be a lot younger and far more attractive than Frank Knight. Unfortunately, Benjamin isn’t in the detective game anymore, he sells furniture. Violet, however, doesn’t give up easily and plots to persuade Benjamin to take her case. While spending time with him – for purely professional reasons, of course – she can’t help but find herself being drawn to him.

The Violet / Benjamin story is so heart-warming to read and adds such a lovely dimension to No Life for a Lady.

The knowledge came crashing over me on that mundane walk home, with the force of a giant wave, that I wanted nothing more in the whole wide world than to be a Lady Detective.

From the Bridgerton vibes when Violet talks about her society debut (that never was) to her realisation that maybe, just maybe, she could be a Lady Detective, I thoroughly enjoyed joining Violet on her journey as she learnt a lot about the ways of the world, human nature and just what exactly did happen to her mother ten years ago…

I laughed out loud so many times reading No Life for a Lady, it blended humour and heart so well. This is Hannah Dolby’s debut book, so I’ll definitely keep an eye out for what she writes in the future. Hoping another adventure with Violet might be on the cards!

If amazing women detectives who were ahead of their time is an enticing book theme to you (why wouldn’t it be??) I can also recommend Things in Jars by Jess Kidd, where you’ll meet the wonderful Bridie Divine…

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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