Spies and Prejudice
By Talia Vance
Read: May 2013
Published: June 11, 2013 by Egmont
Category: contemporary retellings, spies, YA
Fields’ Rule #1: Don’t fall for the enemy.
Berry Fields is not looking for a boyfriend. She’s busy trailing cheaters and liars in her job as a private investigator, collecting evidence of the affairs she’s sure all men commit. And thanks to a pepper spray incident during an eighth grade game of spin the bottle, the guys at her school are not exactly lining up to date her, either.
So when arrogant—and gorgeous—Tanner Halston rolls into town and calls her “nothing amazing,” it’s no loss for Berry. She’ll forget him in no time. She’s more concerned with the questions surfacing about her mother’s death.
But why does Tanner seem to pop up everywhere in her investigation, always getting in her way? Is he trying to stop her from discovering the truth, or protecting her from an unknown threat? And why can’t Berry remember to hate him when he looks into her eyes?
With a playful nod to Jane Austen, Spies and Prejudice will captivate readers as love and espionage collide. (From Goodreads)
Strawberry Fields (Berry) and her dad run a private detective company, catching cheaters in the act. According to Berry, adults rarely notice teens, which is why she does a lot of the investigating, tailing wayward husbands and employees who have wrongfully claimed disability. The job has made Berry wary of guys, especially attractive ones that remind her of the men that she follows. Berry has a loyal best friend, Mary Chris Moss (she was born on Christmas eve), who also happens to be a genius at creating useful gadgets that make Berry's job easier: listening devices, glasses that take long range photos, a scanner that looks like a phone.
Two things happen at the start of the book that are big deals in Berry's life. The first is meeting Tanner and Ryan Halston, new guys at school. Ryan and Mary seem taken with each other immediately, and Tanner can't seem to leave Berry alone, despite the fact that she overheard him call her 'nothing amazing.' Berry can't figure him out, but she's pretty sure she doesn't want to anyway. because she doesn't trust guys who are that gorgeous or that sure of themselves. Second, Berry finds out that there may be more to her mother's death than she was initially told. Although Berry is worried what she might find out, she is determined to uncover the truth. What she doesn't expect is the web of lies and danger she discovers in the process.
Spies and Prejudice is a loose retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and I liked the way that the author played with the original story. Instead of anticipating everything that happens, I was surprised at points along the way. I thought the story was funny amidst the seriousness of Berry's mom's death, and I enjoyed Berry's friend Mary and all of her cool gadgets. I also appreciated the lessons that Berry learns about friendship and loyalty, and the fact that the end of the book is not all wrapped up in a neat bow. I have no idea if there will be a sequel, but I thought this was a realistic conclusion.
However, I did have some trouble connecting with both Berry and Tanner. They read as a lot less warm as their Jane Austen inspirations. Although Austen's characters are always flawed, I somehow manage to find them endearing anyway. In Spies and Prejudice, I thought that Berry was overly harsh to Tanner at times, and I never felt like I got a good read on Tanner. He ran so hot and cold all the time. I also thought that Berry's decisions didn't always make sense logically, except for the fact that they helped to move the story in a specific direction. And near the end I had some trouble following the action, especially how and why certain characters got to where they were.
Like most of Austen books, two potential love interests are initially presented, although one is eventually found to be a bad choice. However, I think it's obvious in this story where the romantic tension lies, and I was never really worried about the other person. Though I did find him to be intriguing. Even so, this book kept me guessing about the characters' secrets, and I wasn't sure I could trust either guy at certain points, which is a great feat for an adaptation.
I wouldn't count Spies and Prejudice among my favorite spy books, or Austen adaptations. But it was a quick, light read perfect for palate cleansing.
Love Triangle Factor: Mild
Cliffhanger Scale: As far as I know, this is a standalone. The story does wrap itself up well, but, room is left open for a sequel.