I am delighted to be a part of the blog tour for; The House on the Hill; A Summer in the Algarve by Chris Penhall. I absolutely love the look of this book and I’m very excited to be sharing an exclusive book extract with you all.
The House on the Hill: A Summer in the Algarve
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?
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Thanks for inviting me to showcase an extract from my latest novel, The House on the Hill.
Layla Garcia owns The House on the Hill, a small yoga and mindfulness studio in Lagos in Portugal’s Algarve. Her apparently well-ordered life is sent a bit off kilter when writer Luke Mackie moves in next door. He’s writing a screenplay for Duarte da Silva, a friend of Layla’s family, who has asked her to take Luke under her wing.
However, Luke is a face from a part of Layla’s past she doesn’t want to remember. Luckily for her, she has no idea who she is, but that doesn’t stop her feeling anxious when she’s around him, for all sorts of reasons.
She is taking Luke out on a trip to the west of Lagos at Duarte’s request in order to help motivate him to write.
‘Thank you for doing this.’ Luke was looking out of the window. ‘It’s not my idea though. It has all come from Duarte. In all honesty, I need to get down to writing rather than going off an adventure today. Although. Well, anyway …’ He trailed off.
‘We’re in the same boat then,’ said Layla. ‘But what Duarte wants at the moment Duarte gets. I’ve put a lot of thought into this so hopefully it’ll be useful.’ The car arrived at the roundabout at the bottom of the hill and they began to head west in silence.
‘What’s that sign say?’ Luke took his headphones off and peered out of the window at a set of traffic lights. ‘Aljezur?’
‘Yes. We’re not far now. It’s a few miles north of that.’
‘This is great. I can feel myself calming down already. The writing juices are welling up inside me now. Maybe Duarte was bang on getting me out and about.’ Luke hit the seat with the palm of his hand excitedly. ‘Although I don’t know why he’s that worried about me that he’s hired a – what can I call you? – a yoga wrangler or something?’
‘I’m very pleased you are so excited about feeling calm,’ said Layla evenly, trying not to laugh and turning up the music.
‘Ah, “Pure Shores”. I did have a crush on every single one of the All Saints many years ago.’ He sighed. ‘And this track is on my list of fifty best relaxing tracks. I wrote an article about it. It was called “Music May Be the Food of Love, But This Lot Helps Me Sleep”.’
‘Good title.’ Layla didn’t want to smile, but she did.
‘I thought so,’ Luke stared out of the window. ‘Where are we actually?’
Layla turned off the main road onto a dirt track, and as it got deeper into the forest a canopy of pine trees threw dappled shadows onto the car, the sun peeping through the leaves as they drove.
‘This is literally the back of beyond, isn’t it?’ Luke’s voice sounded uneasy.
Layla turned to him and smiled. ‘It’s supposed to be. Duarte said you need to be away from the hustle and bustle … although how a secluded villa on the top of a hill overlooking Meia Praia is hustle and bustle beats me.’
‘Now you’re sounding ever so slightly passive aggressive.’ Luke took a slug of water from his bottle.
‘Just concentrating on the driving.’ Layla changed gear aggressively, the clutch growling loudly.
‘Of course you are,’ muttered Luke.
Well, I do have better things to do, said that irritable inner voice rising from the back of her mind where it was usually hidden away. She opened the windows and turned the air conditioning off, then stopped the car.
‘Are we there?’ Luke peered out into the forest. ‘I can’t see anyone …’
‘No, we’re not.’ She opened the door and stepped outside. ‘Come on,’ she said, stretching her arms above her head, breathing in slowly and enjoying the smell of pine and wild thyme.
‘I don’t want to do any more yoga,’ Luke muttered petulantly.
‘It’s not yoga. I just want you to listen and enjoy. Come on. I’m not driving anywhere till you get out of the car.’
He climbed out and slammed the door dramatically. ‘Right.’
‘Listen,’ whispered Layla.
‘I can’t hear anything.’ he said after a moment.
‘You can,’ she said. ‘Close your eyes.’
‘All I can hear is leaves rustling in the breeze,’ he said. ‘Like I said, I can’t hear anything.’
‘That’s a sound.’ Layla closed her eyes. ‘What else can you hear?’
‘Do you promise we can get going if I play along?’
‘Right. Well, birds, obviously. Is that a cuckoo?’
‘Bit late for a cuckoo, but they are here in the spring.’
‘Ah … me talking.’ Layla heard him step back. ‘Me walking through leaves … bloody mosquito … for God’s sake.’
‘Wait. Can I hear a stream?’
Layla smiled. ‘The river isn’t far from here.’ She opened her eyes and climbed back in the car.
‘I’ve passed the test then?’
‘Do you feel slightly more relaxed than five minutes ago?’
Luke closed his eyes and waved his hands slowly above his head. ‘Yes … Can I get in the car now?’
‘Fine.’ Layla turned the engine on as he did up his seatbelt. ‘Just promise to be nice when we get there.’
‘I promise. But you won’t tell me where “there” is. Are we there yet? Are we there yet? I’m hungry. Are we there yet?’
‘Very funny,’ said Layla.
‘I think so.’ Luke sighed happily.
Layla switched “Born to Be Wild” on and began to drive.
‘Are you trying to tell me something? Are we going on a survival course? Living in a cave?’
‘No. I just felt like listening to something loud that drowned out the sound of someone else’s voice.’ She turned the volume up and smiled at him. ‘You will enjoy this and you will tell Duarte that you have’
‘Ooooooh,’ whispered Luke. ‘I like this side of Layla Garcia.’
Chris Penhall won the 2019 Choc-Lit Search for a Star competition, sponsored by Your Cat Magazine, for her debut novel, The House That Alice Built. The sequel, New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun was published in August 2020. Both are available in paperback, e-book and audio and are part of the Portuguese Paradise series. Finding Summer Happiness, which is set in Pembrokeshire in South West Wales is available in e-book, audio and paperback, and The House on the Hill – A Summer in the Algarve, the third novel in the Portuguese Paradise series, is published in e-book on 28th June 2022.
Chris is an author and freelance radio producer for BBC Local Radio.
She also has her own podcast – The Talking to My Friends About Book Podcast in which she chats to her friends about books. Good title!
Born in Neath in South Wales, she has also lived in 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!
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.
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