I featured Jennieke Cohen’s previous book back in 2020, and when I heard she had a new one, I had reach out to her again. MY FINE FELLOW offers a gender-flipped spin on My Fair Lady with some added delectable foods interspersed throughout:
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.
In our last interview, you mentioned that the main character of your book, DANGEROUS ALLIANCE, had an optimism that suited her. Do you consider yourself an optimist, pessimist, both, or neither?
When I was younger, I was definitely more of an optimist and thought everything was going to turn out perfectly, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started being slightly more realistic. Yet, I have to say it sort of depends on the day and my mood. So I guess I’m really somewhere in between.
Sounds like a good place to be. I love that MY FINE FELLOW contains so much food! How did you know this needed to be a part of the story?
I’ve been baking and cooking since I was a young kid. I used to write down recipes from chefs I watched on TV and try to recreate them. I already had the seed of an idea for a gender swapped retelling of My Fair Lady, but the girls were going to have to be experts in something, and I wanted it to be something besides language and speech (as was the case in the original source material). I also wanted to put some of my passions into MY FINE FELLOW, so I decided food had to be a part of it. Then I thought, What if my two girl protagonists were experts in the culinary field? The book evolved from there!
Awesome! So far, you’ve published historical YA fiction. Is this a genre you imagine staying in for awhile, and/or are there any other genres you’d like to experiment with?
I definitely feel like I will come back to historical fiction in some way or other, but I also want to branch out into other genres. Stay tuned to see where I land next!
Can’t wait! If you could tell your younger writer self one thing, what would it be and why?
One of the best parts of my writing journey has been the people I’ve met. I would probably tell myself to get out of my shell just a little bit more and look for more opportunities to make writing friends and lasting connections. It’s not always easy to find those people who you really click with, but I’m so grateful for the writing friends I’ve made along the way.