Girls Before Earls (Rogues to Lovers: Book 1) by Anna Bennett

Book Cover

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Paperbacks

Date of publication: December 28th, 2021

Genre: Romance

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:


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 stride into her office.


Gabriel Beckett, Earl of Bladenton, has had a monstrous headache since the day his teenage 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.


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 pose 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…

First Line:

Nine-year-old Hazel Lively was well aware of the evils of eavesdropping.

girls before earls by anna bennett

I have mentioned this a few times in several reviews, but I love historical romance. More precisely, I love Regency/Victorian era romances. But lately, I have been going through somewhat of a slump when reading historical romances. So, when SMP requested that I review Girls Before Earls, I jumped on it. Add to my excitement that Anna Bennett wrote the book, and it was an immediate yes for me.

Girls Before Earls had an exciting plotline. Hazel is the headmistress of an up-and-coming boarding school. She needs students to build the school’s reputation, and having the niece of an earl would be just what she needed to get the school off the ground. But, what Hazel wasn’t expecting was that Kitty would be a handful. She also didn’t expect what a distraction Blade would be.

On the other hand, Blade is at his wit’s end with trying to keep Kitty in a boarding school. Bribing Hazel to keep her seemed like the only thing left to do. What Blade didn’t expect was falling for Hazel. But he can’t be with her, no matter how he feels about her. Will Hazel and Blade overcome the odds and be together? Or will they forever be destined apart?

I enjoyed reading Girls Before Earls. It was a fast-paced read that kept me glued to the pages. I needed to know what would happen to various characters in the book. There was a slight lag, but it didn’t take away from how much I liked it.

I wasn’t a big fan of Hazel at the start of the book. But the more I saw her interaction with the girls, the townspeople, and Blade, the more I liked her. I will say that her character growth was good. She went from being this pleasant but rigid woman to a softer woman willing to take risks.

I loved Blade, but I didn’t understand why his backstory was dragged out for so long. I did figure out why he refused to get romantically entangled and why he cut his brother out of his life reasonably early in the book. But to stretch it out for a little over half the book? Nope, that was way too long. But, saying that, he was a good person. He exhausted everything to keep Kitty in good board schools. He was honest with his feelings for Hazel right from the beginning, and he refused to let her push him away. I enjoyed his character a lot, and his character growth was right up there with Hazel’s.

I pitied Kitty. She had lost her parents, was uprooted from the only house she knew, and was forced to live with an uncle that didn’t know she existed until her parents’ deaths. No wonder she rebelled and was a little twit. She was lashing out. Thankfully, Hazel understood that and allowed Kitty to grieve but at the same time provided structure. Kitty had the most character growth out of all the characters. I loved seeing her transformation!!!

The romance angle of Girls Before Earls was well written. It was also a slow burn. Hazel and Blade were allowed to develop their relationship over a few months. They were friends before anything happened. Of course, that made the romance so much sweeter to me.

The secondary characters made the book. But the one that caught my attention was Lady Penelope. She did come across as a villain, but there was just something about her that caught my attention. I hope that she gets her book, and I can learn her backstory!!

The end of Girls Before Earls was your typical romance ending. It left me feeling happy and looking forward to the other books.

I would recommend Girls Before Earls to anyone over 21. There is mild violence and mild sexual situations.