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Writing About Grief and Recovery in Spies and Prejudice by Talia Vance (a guest post)

When I first got the idea of writing a story about teenage private investigator Berry Fields, I knew right away that Berry had lost her mother at eight years old, and that this loss would inform every aspect of her character.  Berry’s loss made her grow up fast, contributing to her strong and independent personality, but it also left her vulnerable and distrustful.  

Take 5: Spies Like Us (books about spies)
Berry coped with grief by throwing herself into her father’s business and closing herself off to most relationships, choosing to keep around her only those people she was close to before the death of her mother. This devastating loss left Berry with a deep-rooted fear of abandonment, contributing (along with her experience tailing cheating husbands) to her determination to avoid romantic entanglements.
When the story opens, eight years have passed since Berry’s mother died, but the death still haunts Berry, enough that she still sneaks off to the library periodically to read the newspaper story describing the car accident that killed her mom.  
I write down the witness’s name even though I memorized it years ago. Heather Marrone. Writing her name down at least makes me feel like I’m doing something.  The paper calls the whole thing an accident, and I read the article a few more times as if doing so will make it true.  An accident means she didn’t leave me on purpose.
Berry thinks she keeps her grief hidden, but in actuality, she wears it on her chest, a suit of armor so thick it’s nearly impossible to pierce. Berry is trapped in denial, one of the five stages of grief, and she won’t be able to move past it until she confronts what happened to her mother. When a letter surfaces that raises new questions about how her mother died, Berry can’t stop herself from following the trail of bread crumbs and solving the mystery, even if it means risking the few relationships she has left.  
Is that what this is?  An investigation?  I have a new understanding of the women who hire my dad, women whose relationships are already so damaged that they’re willing to pay money for the proof of it.  I won’t believe that she left me until I see something concrete, but I can’t trust her either.  Will I be surprised when I’m finally confronted with the truth?  The ones who cling to false hope always are.
For me, Berry’s was always the story of a girl who had closed herself off from love, learning to open her heart to new possibilities, but it was important that she also recognize that there was no magic cure for her grief.  Time does not heal all wounds. Time can dull the edges, but the wound remains, a hole in the heart that never fully closes.  And, as Berry discovers, time sometimes makes things worse as memories start to slip away, until it’s hard to distinguish between what’s real and what is cobbled together from old photographs and videos. 
The woman in the picture has long brown hair and a slightly crooked smile. She looks exactly like I remember, but I can’t tell if it’s because she really looked like this or because all I have now are the pictures.  It’s as though all my memories are two-dimensional.
In Spies and Prejudice, Berry doesn’t get over the loss of her mother. That kind of loss is not something that can be overcome.  Berry’s grief is a part of her, but she does learn to accept it and finds the strength to risk her heart again: the strength to be vulnerable.

More on Grief: Check out Quotable RA, sometimes it is among the dying that we remember to live

About Talia Vance
Talia Vance is a practicing litigation attorney living in Northern California with her real life love interest, two-point-five kids, and a needy Saint Bernard named Huckleberry. Talia has been writing since she could talk, making up stories for every doll, stuffed animal and action figure she could get her hands on. She grew up hoping to write the great American novel, but her life ran more along the lines of tortured romance and fast paced thrillers, so that’s what she writes.

Take 5: Spies Like Us

Ever since reading The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter, I am obsessed with spies.  In fact, since it is audio book month, I will share with you that I’d Tell You I’d Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You is the first audio book the Tween and I listened to in the car.  We both loved it and I liked that it was something we could listen to together.  Sometimes we sat in our driveway for a few extra minutes to finish a scene.  I highly recommend this series, the Tween has gone on to purchase them all.  I knew I liked that girl.  And then when you are spy obsessed like me, here are a few more spy stories that you might want to read.

Spies and Prejudice by Talia Vance
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.” – Goodreads

This book is being released June 11, 2013 by EgmontUSA.  I read a review copy and enjoyed it a lot.  It is fun, flirtatious and reminiscent of one of the best non Joss Whedon shows ever – Veronica Mars.  Definitely recommended.  3.5 out of 5 stars.
Also Known As by Robin Benway
“It requires a little precision. I’m safecracking a person. I gotta figure out the code before I’m in.”
“Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations.

Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She’ll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school’s security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover.” – Goodreads

Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan
“There are some secrets worth killing for. And some deaths that are worth keeping secret.” – Maid of Secrets
“Seventeen-year-old Meg Fellowes is a wry, resourceful thief forced to join an elite group of female spies in Queen Elizabeth’s Court. There she must solve a murder, save the Crown, and resist the one thing that will become her greatest freedom–and her deadliest peril.

For Meg and her fellow spies are not alone in their pursuit of the murderer who stalks Windsor Castle.” – Goodreads

The Mysterous Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
“Would you ever have thought I might choose a lie for the sake of my own happiness? The Whisperer’s version of happiness is an illusion — it doesn’t take away your fears, it only lies about them, makes you temporarily believe you don’t have them. And I know it’s a lie, but what a powerful one! Maybe I’m not who I always thought myself to be. Maybe I’m the sort of person who will do anything to hear what I want to believe…” 
“Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” ad attracts dozens for mind-bending tests readers may try. Only two boys and two girls succeed for a secret mission, undercover and underground into hidden tunnels. At the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, the only rule is – there are no rules.” – Goodreads
Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger
“Sophronia was minding her own business and running late to luncheon, as was her custom. She’d let to learn the advantage of punctuality. As she told Sister Mattie the third time she was late to household potions and poisons, nothing interesting happened until after an event commenced.”  – from Ettiquette and Espionage
“Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.” – Goodreads

See also, Booktalk This: Spy Stories

Share in the comments: What are your favorite spy reads?