Maeve, how about no sooner had she than, or no sooner had she when. I’m always confused about that.
Judging from frequent questions about this usage on various internet grammar sites, it’s a concern shared by many writers.
Interestingly, when I tried to find online examples of no sooner…when, I found only one:
She just knew that she was going to be very happy here, but no sooner had she thought this, when a dark shadow fell upon her. –a children’s story
No sooner…than is a two-part comparative adverb.
According to the American Heritage® Book of English Usage (1996):
Because the sooner in no sooner is a comparative adverb like better in no better, the expression should be followed by than, not when: No sooner had she come than the maid knocked. I had no sooner left than she called.
My search did turn up several odd incomplete uses of no sooner…missing its obligatory than:
So no sooner had he touched her, and begun to dally, she caught his hands, and spoke roughly to him, bidding him go away, as she did not want him. –Translation of a Buddhist story
No sooner had she committed to hunkering down in Alaska to “get back to work,” the Last Frontier’s rogue governor, Sarah Palin, is headed back to the campaign trail again… The Huffington Post
I also found one example in which than is incorrectly rendered then, but that could have been a typo:
But, no sooner had she hit rock bottom then she bounced back up again. –Obit of Jade Goody in Telegraph