Reviews

Review: My Fine Fellow by Jennieke Cohen

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+ in exchange for my honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.

Publisher: HarperTeen
Published: January 2022
Pages: 352

Summary

Culinary delights abound, romance lingers in the air, and plans go terribly, wonderfully astray in this cheeky and charming historical tale, perfect for fans of Bridgerton or Dickinson.

It’s 1830s England, and Culinarians—doyens who consult with society’s elite to create gorgeous food and confections—are the crème de la crème of high society.

Helena Higgins, top of her class at the Royal Academy, has a sharp demeanour and an even sharper palate—and knows stardom awaits her if she can produce greatness in her final year.

Penelope Pickering is going to prove the value of non-European cuisine to all of England. Her contemporaries may scorn her Filipina heritage and her dishes, but with her flawless social graces and culinary talents, Penelope is set to prove them wrong.

Elijah Little has nothing to his name but a truly excellent instinct for flavours. London merchants won’t allow a Jewish boy to own a shop, so he hawks his pasties for a shilling apiece to passersby—but he knows with training he can break into the highest echelon of society.

When Penelope and Helena meet Elijah, a golden opportunity arises: to pull off a project never seen before, and turn Elijah from a street vendor to a gentleman chef.

But Elijah’s transformation will have a greater impact on this trio than they originally realize—and mayhem, unseemly faux pas, and a little romance will all be a part of the delicious recipe.

My Thoughts…

It’s no secret by now that I adore retellings and I will read almost any of them, and the less overdone the original material, the better. So, I was really excited to hear that My Fair Lady was getting a retelling, especially since I loved the film version!

My Fine Fellow is a charming gender-flipped loose version of My Fair Lady, with a focus on cooking rather than language, in an alternate 1830s England where Culinarians are at the top of the social pyramid. I found the premise really intriguing, and this alternate version of society was fascinating and definitely reminded me of Netflix’s Bridgerton in many ways.

This was a quick and easy read that definitely had a lot of sweet moments. At the same time though, I was left feeling like I wanted more of everything. The premise and setting were interesting, but I felt like I didn’t get enough of them to really, properly understand the society, its structures and how these affected the characters. There were nonetheless some interesting reflections and representations (Elijah is Jewish and Penelope is of Filipina heritage) and I appreciated how these themes were inserted in the narrative.

Despite that, I just couldn’t grow to care about the characters, which for me is a major issue when reading a book. They all felt quite flat and superficial, with no real depth and very limited growth arcs. The romance was cute, but all other relationships felt quite bland. The cooking and the trio’s passion for it were interesting, but at times I was a bit confused by what was happening and I wasn’t too sure of what the final dish was.

Overall, it’s an easy, fun and charming read that’s great if you’re looking for a simple, entertaining read without much depth.

Rating: 3.5/5

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