Print Length: 320 pages
Publisher: St.Martin's Press (December 28, 2021)

From Goodreads.com:  WHAT A GIRL WANTS

To survive her difficult childhood, Miss Hazel Lively relied on two things:a tough outer shell and a love of books. Now, at the age of twenty-eight, she’s finally realized her life-long dream of opening a school for girls. She’s hoping that the wealthy families who flock to the shore for the summer will entrust their daughters to Bellehaven Academy―and help pay the way for less fortunate students. All Hazel must do is maintain a flawless reputation and raise a good deal of money. It’s a foolproof plan…till a sinfully handsome earl strides into her office.

WHAT AN EARL NEEDS

Gabriel Beckett, Earl of Bladenton, has had a monstrous headache since the day his teenaged niece became his ward. She’s been expelled from two London boarding schools and is doing her damnedest to scare off his potential fiancée. But Blade has a plan of his own―enroll his niece at Bellehaven Academy, where she’ll be out of town and out of his hair. He just needs to convince the buttoned-up headmistress with the soulful brown eyes to take on his niece.

LEAD TO AN IRRESISTIBLE DEAL

When Blade makes a generous offer to the school, it’s impossible for Hazel to refuse. But she has one non-negotiable condition: the earl must visit his niece every other week. Soon, Blade discovers there’s much more to Hazel than meticulous lesson plans. In moonlit seaside coves and candlelit ballrooms, their sparring leads to flirtation…and something altogether deeper. But the passion that flares between them poses a threat to Hazel’s school and Blade’s battered heart. They say a good thing can’t last forever, but true love? Well, it just might…

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My Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Normally, I am a fan of this author. I enjoy the way they bring their stories to life; the way the characters draw me in and keep me entertained. Sadly, however, this particular story was a struggle to get through for a lot of reasons. 

To begin with, I never really bought into the romance between Blade and Hazel. It seemed more a case of he was an attractive male who showed just a slight interest in her. A few carefully placed words and she threw caution to the wind and allowed him to kiss her in her office where anyone could have seen them compromising not only her reputation, but her school as well. In fact, more than once does Hazel put herself in compromising positions with Blade because of their "attraction".

While this normally wouldn't be a turn-off, the constant back and forth and internal whining of these characters was. It was tiring how they would go from seeing each other and being infatuated to vocalizing all the reasons a marriage between them couldn't happen, to missing each other, and over and over throughout the entire book. 

Then you add in not only the lukewarm drama of one mother who goes back and forth on wanting to remove her daughter from Hazel's school (which would be a huge loss), but also the wasted opportunity of Blade's actual fiance (although it's more of an agreed-upon business transaction and less of a marriage), this story manages to somehow not only become more tedious, but leave the reader with more questions than answers. 

However, even though I wasn't a fan of this story, I am sure it will still appeal to others, and it will not keep me from reading more from this author in the future. 

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.

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                                           Girls Before Earls is available from Amazon.com