Girls Before Earls by Anna Bennett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Proper Behavior Never Takes a Holiday…Except on the Beach at Night

From the moment our handsome hero imagines pushing a lock of the heroine’s hair off her forehead in a reversal of a very well-known romance trope, I was captivated by Girls Before Earls. I loved the set-up with a proper young lady who is decidedly not nobility and must work for a living. The setting of the girls’ school was almost cozy in its familiarity (who doesn’t love a good boarding school book? Enid Blyton, anyone?), and Kitty and the other students were fabulous characters. Sparks flew quickly between our heroine, Miss Hazel Lively, and our hero, “Blade” the Earl of Bladenton. Prim and repressed, Hazel–with her motto of “Proper behavior never takes a holiday”–is immediately an irresistible attraction to the rakish Blade who arrives at the Bellehaven School for Girls to enroll his rebellious young niece.

The family subplot involving Blade and Kitty was very well-done, and up until about a third of the way through, I was starting to think that family dynamics would be the main conflict of the book.
However, the conflict changes at about the 30% mark and that was where the story lost me a little as the plot evolved into a series of misunderstandings, blackmail, and a rejected proposal which seemed to me to be rejected for a not very believable / logical reason. While these types of conflicts are not my cup of tea, other readers may find them very satisfying, especially as Bennett is certainly an adept storyteller and wordsmith.

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