Release Day post: The House on the Hill by Chris Penhall
The House on the Hill – A Summer in the Algarve is the story of Layla Garcia, the apparently serene, successful, well-organised owner of a yoga and mindfulness studio called – yes, you’ve guessed it – The House on the Hill. The story follows her through the summer months of one memorable year, and it transpires that under that calm exterior is a swan with legs paddling faster and faster like a wind-up toy as time goes on in order to just keep things under control and the business running smoothly.
But that proves harder than she thinks, especially when a reminder of a past she’d rather not deal with moves in next door in the form of writer, Luke Mackie. He accidentally brings a spot of unwelcome, but - I’m going to be honest here - much-needed chaos to her life. And just to make things even more difficult for herself Layla decides not to tell him that their paths have already crossed. And voila – she manages to create another problem. For her. Not for him. He has no idea they have any kind of common history at all.
All of this is set against the backdrop of Lagos in the western Algarve – a place I love very much, and where I go often to relax, replenish and have quite a lot of fun.
There is a hill behind the long, beautiful stretch of sand that is Meia Praia and I decided that it was a perfect place for Layla’s studios where she can hide out, driving down to the beach or into the city when she needed to, but able to return and gaze at it all from a distance whenever she wants.
She can open the door onto the balcony outside her bedroom and listen to the birdsong and distant lapping of the waves after the daily morning yoga session before she faces the world. To the west, the white-washed buildings of Lagos, to the east, the lagoon separating Meia Praia and Alvor and Portimao, where elegant yachts pause for a while before gliding gracefully out to sea.
For me, this encapsulates Lagos, with its vibrance on one hand, and its serenity on the other. I can experience both within a 20-minute walk! In the summer, the streets are filled with life and music, whether it’s of buskers on street corners or guitarists in bars and restaurants across the city. And yet you can get away from the crowds simply by sitting on the sand of Praia de Batata next to the fort at the end of the Avenida as the sun goes down, where all is quiet, or pad around the narrow, cobbled back streets in the shadows of the city walls, and to the accompaniment of your footsteps and the occasional hum of conversation.
All of that is Layla’s world. She just needs to be careful the House on the Hill doesn’t really turn into her Fortress on the Hill.
About the Book:
Layla is calm, in control and is definitely not about to lose her serenity for the man next door!
Surely it can’t be hard to stay peaceful at one of the oldest yoga and mindfulness retreats in the Algarve, surrounded by sea, sun and serenity? Mostly, owner Layla Garcia manages it – with the help of meditation and plenty of camomile tea, of course.
But keeping her grandparents’ legacy alive is stressful, and Layla has become so shackled to the work that, for her, The House on the Hill is fast becoming ‘The Fortress on the Hill’.
Then writer Luke Mackie moves to the villa next door, bringing with him a healthy dose of chaos to disrupt Layla’s plans, plus a painful reminder of a time when she was less-than-serene. But could his influence be just what Layla needs to ‘dance like no-one’s watching’ and have the fun she’s been missing?
Apple Books: https://apple.co/38AH8oO
About the Author:
Chris is a freelance writer and radio producer. Born in South Wales, she has also lived near London and in Portugal, which is where The House That Alice Built is set. It was whilst living in Cascais near Lisbon that she began to dabble in writing fiction, but it was many years later that she was confident enough to start writing her first novel, and many years after that she finally finished it. She is now working on her second. A lover of books, music and cats, she is also an enthusiastic salsa dancer, a keen cook and loves to travel. She is never happier than when she is gazing at the sea. Chris has two grown-up daughters and lives in the Essex countryside. Chris is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association.
Chris debut novel, The House That Alice Built won Choc Lit’s Search for a Star competition sponsored by Your Cat Magazine.
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisPenhall
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Visit Chris’s blog here: https://www.chrispenhall.co.uk/