Title: Relative Fortunes
Author: Jennifer Probst
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: August 2019
Length: 316 pages
Series?: Julia Kydd #1
Genre: Historical, Mystery, Thriller
In 1920s New York, the price of a woman’s independence can be exorbitant—even fatal.
In 1924 Manhattan, women’s suffrage is old news. For sophisticated booklover Julia Kydd, life’s too short for politics. With her cropped hair and penchant for independent living, Julia wants only to launch her own new private press. But as a woman, Julia must fight for what’s hers—including the inheritance her estranged half brother, Philip, has challenged, putting her aspirations in jeopardy.
When her friend’s sister, Naomi Rankin, dies suddenly of an apparent suicide, Julia is shocked at the wealthy family’s indifference toward the ardent suffragist’s death. Naomi chose poverty and hardship over a submissive marriage and a husband’s control of her money. Now, her death suggests the struggle was more than she could bear.
Julia, however, is skeptical. Doubtful of her suspicions, Philip proposes a glib wager: if Julia can prove Naomi was in fact murdered, he’ll drop his claims to her wealth. Julia soon discovers Naomi’s life was as turbulent and enigmatic as her death. And as she gets closer to the truth, Julia sees there’s much more at stake than her inheritance…
Julia Kydd is approaching 25 and is recalled to New York by her half-brother, Phillip. He is the trustee of their father’s will, and she is about to receive her full inheritance once she turns 25. Phillip is contesting the will as explicitly including Julia with the way it was worded.
While anxiously awaiting the decision and abhorring her brother’s behavior, Julia reunites with a girl she knew when she was an early teen. Glennis Rankin is from an old family with money. They are the upper crust of society.
Julia winds up tagging along with Glennis to her sister-in-law’s party. There is a seance with a horrible insight. Not long after, she learns that her older sister, Naomi, has been found deceased in her lower-level apartment that is connected to the Rankin family home.
Glennis immediately is steadfast in the belief that her older brother, Chester, was involved in Naomi’s death. He also happens to be the one who found Naomi. Coincidence? Chester hated Naomi because of her involvement in politics.
While Julia isn’t convinced Chester is a murderer, she does believe something is fishy. There is a cover up to avoid a scandal is what she’s hearing. Julia agrees to assist Glennis by asking some questions.
The suspicious nature of Naomi Rankin’s death is also how Julia is going to take back her stolen inheritance. Phillip and she make an agreement, so Julia is fully invested in finding the truth for Naomi. It turns dangerous and deadly, and family secrets come crashing down.
I will say that after things begin to be revealed about a certain (and in my opinion, rather unscrupulous and arrogant) character, I then saw back to a certain scene early on in the book. I had found the scene odd and inappropriate, and didn’t see how Julia also didn’t see that. When all this is revealed at the end, I then hoped for a change of tides in certain other characters. But to no avail. The patriarchy is still thrusting forward, and blaming the women along the way for their sins, but not the sins of man.
The fist of the patriarchy is strong and bold in this book. At times, it was too much to bear. It is set in the 1920s, so women have *just* gotten the right to vote. It’s still quite zealous among the Rankin family. Naomi is all for women’s rights, while her entire family is steadfastly against it.
The book started off really slow. REALLY. SLOW. I think it was the language and the excessively long descriptions of anything and everything. I set this book aside for over a year. I finally got tired of it sitting in my Currently Reading list on Goodreads. It takes a good 35-40% to start getting into the story with it starting to fully flush out and develop.
While I have a tie to printing (as a yearbook advisor) and know what a colophon is, all of the endless prattle about the specifics of printing and presses and typographies and some I wasn’t even sure about was 98% unnecessary.
I liked Julia’s character quite a bit, and even two men who help her along the way, both attorneys. Glennis, though, seemed like an airhead that had no motivation in life – not event truly desiring to be a wife or mother or anything – just off-handedly on the hunt for a husband. Phillip’s character was an odd mix that didn’t fully repair his estimation in my eyes. He is downright cruel to Julia regarding losing her inheritance, being denied as a legitimate child of her father. He seems like the ’20s version of a douchebag. I didn’t like any of the Rankin family at all, with perhaps the exception of Glennis just because she’s a dodo bird.