M. M. Kaye was born in Simla, India, and spent her early childhood and much of her early-married life there. Her family ties with the country are strong: her grandfather, father, brother and husband all served the British Raj and her grandfather's cousin, Sir John Kaye, wrote the standard accounts of the Sepoy Mutiny and the First Afghan War. After India's independence, her husband, Major-General Goff Hamilton of Queen Victoria's Own Corps of Guides (the famous Indian Army regiment featured in The Far Pavilions), joined the British Army and for the next nineteen years M. M. Kaye followed the drum to Kenya, Zanzibar, Egypt, Cyprus and Germany.
M. M. Kaye won worldwide fame for The Far Pavilions, which became a worldwide best-seller on publication in 1978. This was followed by Shadow of the Moon and Trade Wind. She also wrote and illustrated The Ordinary Princess, a children's book (called "refreshingly unsentimental" by an article in Horn Book Magazine) which she originally wrote as a short story, and authored a dozen detective novels, including Death in Kashmir and Death in Zanzibar. Her autobiography has been published in three volumes, collectively entitled Share of Summer: The Sun in the Morning, Golden Afternoon, and Enchanted Evening. In March 2003, M. M. Kaye was awarded the Colonel James Tod International Award by the Maharana Mewar Foundation of Udaipur, Rajasthan, for her "contribution of permanent value reflecting the spirit and values of Mewar".