Dodd is the youngest of three daughters (her sisters are 8 and 10 years older than she is) whose father died before she was born. Although her mother had been a housewife with few job skills, after Dodd's birth she found a job and worked diligently to support her children. Despite the hard work, she still found time every day to read to her children, instilling in Dodd a love of books.
Dodd attended college in Boise, Idaho, where she met her husband, Scott. After graduation, she worked as a draftsman in an engineering firm, designing a sawmill. During her lunch hour, Dodd would begin reading a romance novel. While working during the afternoon, she would often plot an ending for the story, and almost always eventually discovered that she liked her endings better than the ones the author intended.After her daughter was born in 1980, Dodd decided to stay at home and try to write a book. Over the next ten years, she wrote three romance novels. For five of these years, she also worked part-time at an independent bookstore. By talking to customers and watching what they purchased, Dodd was able to learn more about what people like to read. Her first two manuscripts were consistently rejected. The third, Candle in the Window, won the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award for unpublished authors, resulting in its publication in 1991 by HarperCollins. The book won many awards and has not gone out of print.
Her first editor was conservative, and often cut or severely trimmed the love scenes that Dodd had written. When Dodd moved from HarperCollins to Avon, her new editor chose not to interfere in the love scenes. Her first novel for Avon, A Well Pleasured Lady, was the first of her novels to include love scenes written in Dodd's "normal, unedited frankness." A Well Pleasured Lady also marked Dodd's transition to writing historical romances set in the Regency period. Regencies allowed her to continue writing historicals while including fewer details on "what the characters are wearing, what the idioms mean, and who the scions of society were."
The heroines of Dodd's historical romance novels are based on her mother, an "impoverished yet determined woman who, in spite of adversity, fights to take control of her life and always wins."Her novels have since been translated into twelve languages and have appeared on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists. Her 2003 novel, My Favorite Bride, spent 15 weeks in the top 15 of the New York Times Best Seller List. The Romance Writers of America have awarded her their RITA Award, the highest honor given to romance novelists. Dodd has even appeared as a clue in the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle (on November 18, 2005).
In 2003 Dodd released her first contemporary romance.
Dodd and her family have lived in California, Idaho, and Texas, but they currently reside in Washington.
Dodd normally begins her writing process with a 10-20 page outline of the story. Every morning, she revises the pages that she wrote the day before. After refamiliarizing herself with the storyline, she then continues writing. She will also usually lightly outline the next few chapters that she is intendig to write. When she reaches the midpoint of the manuscript, she often does a larger-scale revision. By the time she reaches the conclusion of the story, it is ready to be sent to the editors.
Dodd also relies occasionally on plot weekends. She and several friends who are romance novelists, including Connie Brockway and Susan Mallery, meet at a hotel for three days. Each author takes a turn, describing they type of book she wants to write and the ideas that she already has. The group then brainstorms various plot scenarios.