Charlotte Brame was born in Hinckley, England to a devout Roman Catholic family. As a teenager, she contributed poems and short stories to a Catholic weekly. She attended convent schools in Bristol and Preston and then worked as a governess. In 1863, she married Philip Brame, a London jeweler with whom she had nine children. The family moved to various cities, including London, Brighton, and Manchester. Her husband was an incompetent businessman and drank, and Charlotte had to start supporting the family with her writing. Her work was serialized in periodicals and then reprinted in book form. She used her own name until 1876, when her American publisher Street & Smith developed pseudonyms for her, including Bertha M. Clay and Dora Thorne. She is credited with 73 works, including sentimental short stories, novelettes, and novels. After her death, Street & Smith continued to use Bertha M. Clay as a house name for as many as a dozen other male writers. She died suddenly in 1884 at the age of 48.