Carlyle attended college on a Scripps Howard writing scholarship and majored in journalism. She spent much of her career working in Human Resources and Labor Relations in the chemical and automotive industries however. She did not begin writing until December 1996 when she was between jobs. She finished the novel within two months and attempted to find a publisher for it. Although that work did not sell, Pocket Books was interested in seeing more of her work. In 1998 they bought two novels from her, publishing the first, My False Heart, in 1999. All of her novels are considered historical romance and they are all loosely linked by characters who are either related or acquainted.
In 2003, Carlyle contributed a novella to the anthology Big Guns, marking her first foray into contemporary romance.
She has been nominated for Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Awards five times, winning in 1999 for My False Heart. She has also been nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award, and won a Romance Writers of America RITA Award in 2006 for Best Long Historical Romance (The Devil to Pay). Several of her books have become USA Today bestsellers.