My Fine Fellow is a fresh retelling filled with food, fun, and romance – Culturess

Posted By on January 14, 2022

My Fair Lady has been one of my favorite movies since I first saw the Audrey Hepburn version when I was a kid. The music, the gowns, the story of becoming more than you thought you could be. Whats not to like? So when I saw that Jennieke Cohen was writing a retelling, I knew I had to readMy Fine Fellow. And I was not disappointed.

Lets start with the main characters. First is Helena Higgins. She is top of her class at the Royal Academy for Culinarians AKA she is an amazing chef. And she knows it. She is rarely ever wrong. At leastin her opinion.

Next up is her friend, Penelope Pickering. Shes almost at the top of her class at the Royal Academy for Culinarians. Shes just behind Helena. She is part Filipina and very interested in foods from the Americas and the cuisine her mother taught her. She is Helenas only friend.

Finally, there is Elijah Little. Hes a street vendor who sells the food he makes to anyone passing by with a shilling. He wants better for himself and his dreams of owning his shop one day., But he knows the limitations society puts on him. Hes Jewish and not allowed to own his shop in London.

These three meet one fateful night and Helena comes up with an idea. She needs something to do for her final project before she can graduate as a Culinarian. Whats her plan? She will make Elijah into an extraordinary gentleman chef.

Penelope decides she will be a part of the project as well (although she has her final project to work on) and while Elijah is suspicious, he figures he could at least learn some new recipes if nothing else. If it fails, hell go back to his old life.

What could go wrong? Oh so much.

At first, its fine. Sure, Helena is a tyrant, but whats new? She wants Elijah to get the most out of the situation and she wants top marks for her project. Penelope helps as much as she can and she certainly doesnt mind spending time with Elijah.

Elijah is not in love with Helenas method of teaching, but he can take it. And if it means spending more time with Penelope, even better!

But then they decide to enter him in the Royal Culinary Exhibition. This is when things get tricky. He must enter as a gentleman chef. Something, that if his background was known, would not be accepted. But go big or go home, right?

Elijah is a star at the culinary exhibition and is accepted into the next round. But theres a problem

The next round is to be judged by the Queen of England and Princess Charlotte. And the winner of the whole exhibition will marry the princess.

But Elijah and Penelope dont know that. At least they dont until Helena tells them the night before the final round.

This is when things start to fall apart.

Penelope and Elijah have gotten quite close throughout this process. They care about each other. Or its clear to everyone but Helena.

Also, there is the problem of Elijah being Jewish. Helena doesnt know. Or she doesnt know until the night before the final competition andwell, lets just say, she doesnt take it well.

There is also the fact that the British Royals probably wouldnt be too welcoming to a Jew marrying into the family. Especially one who isnt rich or titled.

The relationship between the three friends explodes. Penelope is shocked by her friends words and wonders what Helena thinks about her mixed background. Elijah isnt surprised but still feels stuck between a rock and a hard place. He will go through with the final round of the competition but hes determined, to tell the truth.

And while Penelope and Elijah are still dealing with their feelings for each other, they still take the time to tell some truths to Helena (its the best!).

Helenawellshe doesnt understand. Isnt sure what went wrong or what she did. Could Helena Higgins do something wrong?

I loved how My Fine Fellow took the original story and kind of fixed everything I had issues with. Beyond changing up the genders of the characters, Cohen nixed the romance between Higgins and Elijah (thank goodness) and allowed Helena to be called out, to be introspective about the harm she caused, and to try and fix it. I wouldnt say Helena redeemed herself entirely, but she begins to think of others instead of herself.

Cohen also didnt pull any punches. There are a couple of scenes that punched me right in the throat. The first is when the three characters set off to show Elijahs skills to Helenas grandmother. They see some Jewish boys selling oranges on the side of the road. Elijah wants to stop and buy a few things. He used to be one of those boys. Why not pay it back? Helena says something pretty offensive. It hurts Elijah and as a Jewish woman, it hurt me to read.

The next moment is at Helenas grandmothers house. They are all tasting Elijahs food. Its amazing until they get to the pork. Its too salty. And Helena is not happy. She asks him why he didnt taste it.

To the reader, its obvious. Hes Jewish. He wouldnt taste the pork. But at this point in the story, no one knows that. Its almost too hard to read. The shame he feels because its not up to his usual standard. He believes they will shun him if they knew he was Jewish.

These two scenes hurt but they are worth the pain to see Elijah stand up for himself and tell Helena exactly how awful she is in the end. Penelope also gets her chance to confront her friend and oh, its a great scene.

With My Fine Fellow, Jennieke Cohen brought a breath of fresh air to a story so many people know. Not only did she make it more diverse, but she added food (always a good thing), made it feel more modern despite the setting, and ultimately, created a well-crafted story where a Jewish boy and a Filipina girl can fall in love and get everything they deserve. It

Whether you like My Fair Lady, are a historical fiction fan or are just a fan of romance, you do not want to miss this book.

My Fine Fellow by Jennieke Cohen is available in ebook, audiobook, and hardcover formats.

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My Fine Fellow is a fresh retelling filled with food, fun, and romance - Culturess

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