Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Finding Summer Happiness by Chris Penhall - Book Tour

Finding Summer Happiness

You won’t find happiness without breaking a few eggs ...
Miriam Ryan was the MD of a successful events and catering company, but these days even the thought of chopping an onion sends her stress levels sky rocketing. A retreat to the Welsh village of her childhood holidays seems to offer the escape she’s craving – just peace, quiet, no people, a generous supply of ready meals ... did she mention no people?
Enter a cheery pub landlord, a lovesick letting agent, a grumpy astronomer with a fridge raiding habit – not to mention a surprise supper club that requires the chopping of many onions – and Miriam realises her escape has turned into exactly what she was trying to get away from, but could that be just the thing she needs to allow a little bit of summer happiness into her life?

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In this extract, Miriam is finally escaping the stresses and strains of her life as the MD of an events and catering company, driving out of London, across the Severn Crossing and into Wales.

 As soon as she arrives at her last-minute holiday rental, she knows that for the next few months, she will be able to relax, unwind, and have no responsibilities at all, for absolutely anyone or anything.

 That’s what she thinks anyway. It’s not going to happen, but she is blissfully unaware of that yet, as she pauses for a moment overlooking the beach at Newgale.

 She stopped at a lay-by on the brow of a hill which swept down towards the sea and texted the contact at the letting agents so they could meet her at the house.  Allowing herself to rest for a few moments, she gazed at the gentle curve of the shore which sloped upwards to dramatic cliffs in the distance.  The sun was slowly setting in the west, the sky a heady mixture of orange, blue and almost black, the darkening waves breaking powerfully on the beach below.  For a moment, she felt peaceful.  Then the buzz of a motorbike speeding past brought her back to the present, so she stretched, checked her sat nav and bean the last part of her journey.  She navigated the increasingly narrow roads, which were dotted alongside with cottages, luscious hedgerows, and protected by high, bowing trees.  The sea glittered in the distance as the lanes swept up over the hills, disappearing again when the car dipped into a valley.

            It was almost dark when she pulled off the tiny village road onto the driveway of her house, and she was too tired to feel anything but relief at her arrival.  A small figure with long, dark, wavy hair and a kind, smiling face, climbed out of the car parked in front of her and waved.

            Miriam got out wearily.  ‘Hello,’ she said.

            ‘Hiya. It’s Miriam, is it? I’m Rhiannon. The letting agent.’

She shook Miriam’s hand, still smiling.  ‘Of course I’m the letting agent.  You’ll have worked that out! Why else would I be here?  I’m really an estate agent, I am, but I’m covering someone else who’s the letting agent, and I have to keep saying it so I remember.  I didn’t know when I accepted the job….’  Her voice trailed off and she looked at Miriam expectantly.

            Miriam smiled.  ‘Good to meet you,’ she said.

            ‘You too.  Lovely house, this.  Apparently.’  Rhiannon took a key out of her bag and put it in the lock.  ‘Not been in myself though, to be honest.  I’m new, you see.  Just moved down from the Cardiff office.  Broken heart I had, so had to get away.  Fresh start and all of that.’  She pushed the door open.  ‘Ta dah! Welcome to The Grange!’

            They both stepped into the hallway and Rhiannon switched on the light.  The walls were striped with yellow and white, with a light slate-grey floor and an elegant stairway to the side.

            ‘Oh, there’s lovely,’ squealed Rhiannon.  ‘I could live here myself.  Aren’t you lucky!’

            Miriam smiled.  ‘It seems I am by the looks of it.’

            ‘It was all very last minute, wasn’t it?’  Rhiannon pushed the nearest door open.  ‘Now, that’s what I call a kitchen.  Look at the range over there.  You can get very creative culinary-wise.’

            ‘I plan to live on ready meals, dips and takeaways,’ Miriam laughed.  ‘So, no creativity here.’

            ‘Oh.  Pity that.  It looks like it likes to be cooked in.  You know what I mean, don’t you?’

            ‘Oh, I do.’  Miriam peered out of the doors into the garden.  ‘I used to own an events company and we mainly did our own catering, so I’ve spent a lot of time in kitchens over the years.’

            ‘Well, you can use this one to sit down and enjoy the view in, then.’  Rhiannon picked up a large file from next to the sink, scattering several pieces of paper on the floor

 ‘Oops…’. She gathered them up and put them back.  ‘The owner seems to have left you a few recipes.  That’s kind.’

            Miriam opened the fridge door in the hope that some kind soul had left some chilling wine in it, but there was nothing there.

            ‘The owner went away in a bit of a hurry, apparently,’ said Rhiannon.  ‘But she’s left a list of instructions here too by the looks of it.’

            ‘I think I’ll look at that tomorrow.  I’ve been driving all day, and I just fancy a glass or two of wine.  Then I’ll head to bed.’

            ‘Would you like me to give you a quick tour of the place?’

Rhiannon looked hopeful.

            ‘No thanks.  I’ll be fine.  But could you help me bring my cases and bags of food in?’

            ‘Pity.  I’d love a look around myself.’

            ‘Well, you can pop over sometime and I can show you.’

            Rhiannon laughed.  ‘That’s a deal then.  Come on, let’s get you settled in.  I’m sure you’ll be very happy here.’

            I’m just looking for some peace and quiet, thought Miriam. Not sure I can stretch to happy.

            Once all the bags were put in the hallway and Rhiannon had noisily left, Miriam couldn’t even summon up the energy to put wine in the fridge, let alone drink it.  So, she ate a couple of breadsticks and went upstairs to locate the master bedroom.  And when she found it, she unpacked the overnight bag she always kept in the car just in case, places her slippers carefully by the bed, put the jiffy bag containing the photographs in the bedside drawer, climbed under the duvet and enjoyed the deepest sleep she had for many years.


Author Bio –
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. Her short story, Lily McKee's Seven Days of Christmas appears in Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction's Cosy Christmas Treats anthology.

Her new novel, Finding Summer Happiness, which is set in Pembrokeshire in South West Wales was published in May 2021.

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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