Mrs. Bonhôte was born Elizabeth Mapes in Bungay, Suffolk to a family of tradesmen. Between 1770 and 1774, she married Daniel Bonhôte, a prominent local solicitor. She became a member of the local social elite and a regular theater-goer. Her earliest published literary works were elegies and poems in praise of King George III, and some speeches for a theater company. The first of her seven novels may have been The Rambles of Mr Frankly, Published by His Sister (1772-1773), published anonymously. A second work, The Fashionable Friend, an epistolary novel, appeared in 1773. Hortensia; or The Distressed Wife, was published in 1777, and Olivia; or The Deserted Bride the following year. Her gothic romance novel Bungay Castle (1796) seems to have been influenced by the work of Ann Radcliffe. In about 1788, while suffering from a serious illness, she wrote one of her most serious works, The Parental Monitor, a collection of essays for the guidance of her children. It was the first text to be published under her own name. It became a bestseller and was reprinted several times.