Rosa Nouchette Carey was born in London and grew up in Hackney. She was the 8th child and 4th daughter of a ship broker, William Henry Carey and his wife Maria Jane Wooddill (or Woodhill). She attended the Ladies' Institute in St John's Wood and retained from girlhood her High Church principles.
As a child she entertatined her siblings with improvised tales, wrote plays and poetry and started a magazine.
Her first published novel, Nellie's Memories (1868) was met with reviews that sneered at this babblingly autobiographical chronicle of an elder sister ("a weak girl of one and twenty") heroically replacing her dead mother. However, it sold over 50,000 copies.
As a girl she had "made a deliberate and as it afterwards proved, a fruitless attempt to quench the longing to write" and had "endeavoured to be more like other girls". As a woman of the 19th century with High Church beliefs it would have been very difficult for her to justify working for a living, or at least writing (which was not woman's work) without the necessity for it. However, her brother died leaving her the sole support of his six children. This left her with a free conscience but "The charge tied my hands...and prevented the pursuing of my literary labours as fully as I could otherwise have done".
She wrote around 40 domestic melodramas. Her best received novel was Not Like Other Girls published in 1884, in which three daughters and their widowed mother turn to dressmaking after the death of their father - a situation with some autobiographical connections.
Her fictional themes tend to revolve around the condition and anxieties of woman in her roles of mother, daughter, sister. Characters "without a single redeeming vice" as one commentator put it. Nevertheless, the narrative voice in several of her novels such as Only the Governess and Herb of Grace is male. However, he is only there to highlight the female characters.
As well as novels Rosa N Carey wrote short stories, many of which were published under the auspices of the Religious Tract Society (RTS), and serials for the Girl's Own Paper. She also had one book, Heriot's Choice published in Monthly Packet. This was Charlotte M Yonge's magazine and Carey's fiction shows the clear influence of Ms Yonge who was the most famous popular High Church female novelist.
Under the pseudonym of "Le Voleur" Rosa N Carey did produce a number of slightly racier novels including For Love of a Bedouin Maid (1897).
She lived in Hampstead for 39 years and then in Putney remaining unmarried, devoting herself to the care first of her widowed mother, then of various of her siblings and their children. She was a close friend of the writer Mrs Henry Wood and whilst in Putney she shared her house for some of the time with the children's writer Helen Marion Burnside.