Hector, Annie (née French ) (Mrs Alexander ) (1825–1902), novelist, was born in Dublin 23 June 1825, the only daughter of Robert French, a Dublin barrister originally of Frenchpark, Co. Roscommon, a descendant of the Church of Ireland bishop of Down and Connor Jeremy Taylor (qv), and related to the poet Charles Wolfe (qv). Her mother was Anne Malone (d. 1865), related to the writer and critic Edmund Malone (qv). She read widely as a child, and was educated at home by governesses. Financial difficulties forced her family to leave Ireland for Liverpool when she was nineteen; they moved frequently between Chester, Jersey, and other locations before eventually settling in London. She returned to Ireland only once. Her early novels, Agnes Waring (1854), Kate Vernon (1855), and The happy cottage (1856), were published anonymously and made little impact, but her fortunes improved when she was befriended by the English novelist Eliza Lynn Linton and by Anna Maria Hall (qv). Hector later remarked that she owed ‘the most valuable introduction I ever had’ to Hall, when the latter introduced her to W. H. Wills, editor of Household Words (Black, 66). Wills secured the publication of her first major success, a sketch entitled ‘Billetted to Boulogne’, which appeared in his magazine in 1856.
In April 1858 Annie French married the wealthy explorer and merchant Alexander Hector, whose views on writing as an unfeminine pursuit temporarily terminated her nascent literary career. Her next two novels, Look before you leap (1865) and Which shall it be? (1866), were written in stealth, stimulated probably by financial necessity. The marriage seems to have been an unhappy one, and in 1870 the couple separated. Hector's next and most successful work was The wooing o't, originally serialised in Temple Bar in 1873 and collected in volume form by the end of that year. For this work she first adopted what would become her habitual pseudonym, Mrs Alexander. In 1875 her husband, who had been suffering ill health for some time, died, leaving his family ill-provided for. With three daughters and one son to support, she turned to writing in earnest. She spent much of the next decade travelling, living in Germany and France for six years (an experience she drew on for several of her novels) and St Andrews for three years, before settling in London in 1885. A prolific and successful romantic writer, she published over forty novels, of which eleven went into second editions. Several achieved transatlantic success, and others were translated into Spanish (The Freres, 1882), Danish (By woman's wit, 1886), and Polish (Mona's choice, 1887). Hector was evidently well liked and respected in literary circles, and had a wide circle of friends.
For the last ten years of her life Hector suffered from chronic neuritis; nevertheless, she maintained her prodigious literary output until her death, in London, on 10 July 1902. She was buried in Kensal Green cemetery. Her final novel, Kitty Costello (1904), is a part-autobiographical account of a young Irishwoman's experience in England. Her portrait was painted as a bride by Fitzgerald of Versailles (c.1858), and later by her daughter May Hector (c.1902).