Published by HarperTeen on January 11, 2022
Genres: Historical, Romance, Young Adult
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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 demeanor 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 flavors. London merchants won’t allow a Jewish boy to own a shop, so he hawks his pasties for a shilling a piece 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.
Is there anything better than a book about food? If you enjoy food-themed books, you will absolutely love this one. It’s so full of foodie goodness… with the added bonus of being set in the 19th century.
My Fine Fellow is loosely based on My Fair Lady. The novel follows two soon-to-be-Culinarians, Helena and Penelope, who have a chance meeting with Elijah, a Jewish boy who makes a humble living selling pasties in street markets. Helena and Penelope decide to take Elijah under their wing and transform him into a gentleman chef.
I really enjoyed My Fine Fellow. It was slightly slow-paced but I highly enjoyed the simplicity of the plot and the themes that were explored. I loved how My Fine Fellow explored cultural and religious diversity through food and really got across the message that identity and individuality can be expressed so effectively through food. The novel had a strong focus on antisemitism and the treatment of Jews and those were biracial. I really appreciated how beautifully identity and cultural differences were explored. I also loved the writing and found it extremely easy to read.
I absolutely loved Penelope and Elijah as characters! There were times when I wish we got to see a bit more character development for them, particularly as Elijah was “transformed” into a gentleman. I would’ve loved to have gotten to know the characters even more and felt like I only really knew them on a surface level. I wasn’t a fan of Helena at all and her character was very much written as someone who we were supposed to dislike but would later come to like due to her character growth. I’m not really a fan of this character building device, because the character growth always seems a bit forced and unnatural.
I enjoyed that the romance was secondary to everything else that was going on in My Fine Fellow. It was sort of like a nice bonus for me. I loved how naturally it progressed and thought they were wonderful together.
My Fine Fellow is a wonderful read for anyone looking for a light read that will brighten your day. If you love food-themed books and historical YA, you will absolutely love this one!
Rating: 4 out of 5
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