ARC Review: Relative Fortunes by Marlowe Benn (A Julia Kydd Novel #1)

Benn-Relative Fortunes-28094-CV-FL.inddOfficial Synopsis from Goodreads: 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…

Genre: Historical Mystery
Setting: New York City, 1924

***I received an eARC copy of Relative Fortunes from Little Bird Publicity and Lake Union Publishing via NetGalley***

*** this post contains affiliate links ***

 Review: Slow to start, but ultimately a compelling mystery! Relative Fortunes by Marlowe Benn is set in the 1920s in New York City. Our main heroine, Julia Kydd, is almost twenty-five, and is embroiled in an inheritance dispute with her half-brother, Philip. Julia and her friend, Glennis, enjoy life on the town, but then Glennis’s older sister, Naomi, is found dead. Was it suicide? Or was it murder? Glennis’s family tries to keep it all hush-hush, but Julia and Glennis search out the truth.

Julia is an interesting heroine. She lives in London and is in New York City for the inheritance issue, and wants to open up her own publishing business. She’s modern and free-spirited, and I mostly enjoyed reading her, as I couldn’t ever pinpoint exactly what she was going to do next. I appreciate this type of unpredictability in mysteries, as usually our heroines are fairly predictable. Not so here and I enjoyed it. However, one thing that did confuse me about Julia was that her interactions with many of the other characters were very flirty, almost sexual. Maybe this was just how I was reading her character, but it seemed like she was flirting with everyone around: married men, women, her friend’s boyfriend, even her brother, and I was so confused. Was it intentional, or did I turn what was meant to be cute and fun into something that felt awkward to read? ‘Cuz she has definite chemistry with her brother. And that was, well, weird to read.

So after we got past that awkward flirting with everyone around, which toned down once we got seriously into the mystery of how did Naomi die, I really got sucked into the mystery. I didn’t see the who/what/why coming at all, and thought it was chillingly disturbing, and also terribly unsatisfying in the conclusion. Unsatisfying in that so-angry-that-this-was-the-way-things-were way, and upset that women’s lives were just not valued at all in this time period.

There’s a lot of feminist thought here, with a big focus on independent women, as Naomi was a vocal supporter of women’s rights and had a secret plan to run for the Senate. With Naomi’s death and Julia’s inheritance dispute, there is a lot here that shows how far we women have come since the 1920s. And how far we still have to go.

I’ll be interested to see where this series takes Julia, as she really was quite intriguing, and the mystery was very well done once we got past all of the initial introductions and setup.

Bottom Line: A new mystery series with promise!

LINKS ***the Amazon link is an affiliate link which means I receive a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase***

Author Website

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6 thoughts on “ARC Review: Relative Fortunes by Marlowe Benn (A Julia Kydd Novel #1)

  1. I too thought this started slow and almost felt like a diatribe against men in some places. I felt she was trying to capture the #metoo audience with all of the patriarchy pontificating. I also didn’t figure exactly how the murder occurred which always makes for a more exciting ending.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For sure! I kept waiting for a gentleman or two to arrive, but I don’t know that one every really showed up in this read. Will be interesting to see if the future books have the same feminist angle and mystery focus! This mystery was a tough one to solve – I didn’t see it coming at all!


  2. I didn’t even think about how an inheritance dispute would be a big deal in the 1920s in the U.S. until your last paragraph (I get lazy and assume everything now is how it has always been). For the main character, to not only have her own money but fight a male relative for that money IS a big deal. The odd thing is this: where will she put it? Women couldn’t have bank accounts in the 1920s. In a silk stocking, no doubt!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I’ve always kind of assumed the US was a bit more ahead in terms of women inheriting money, but in this book it was a struggle for her to get her inheritance. The thought by everyone was that she’d just end up marrying someone wealthy, and so she, being female, didn’t need the money. (Cuz what would she do with it?) But Julia (the main character) didn’t want to just rely on someone else, and she wants to use some of that money to start a publishing business. Without that money she’s unable to start her business, and she won’t be able to necessarily rely on a wealthy husband supporting her dream. All of the male characters tend to find her dreams silly. Julia has quite the modern mindset, and sometimes that is too jarring in historical books, but I thought it worked here as the time period starts to become more progressive. I’m intrigued to see if the future books continue this feminist trend!


      1. Looking back,, when I was a kid I thought it was weird that my grandma and grandpa had separate bank accounts, and now I see that it’s unique that she had her own money to spend. In the case of your novel, Julia could have married a rich person, but she’d have to ask to use it. Ew.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yep. Exactly what she didn’t want to have to do! It was quite interesting to read this particular money struggle, as it highlighted issues I hadn’t really thought of before.


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