Monday 20 June 2022

 Guest Post with Chris Penhall

This week I'm delighted to welcome fellow Ruby Fiction author, Chris Penhall to the blog. Her new novel, the third in her Portuguese Paradise Book series, is to be published next week. 

Chris, welcome. I'm looking forward to finding out more about The House on The Hill: A Summer in The Algarve and how it fits into your series.

 Hi Jan. Thanks for inviting me onto your blog to talk about the challenges of writing books connected to one another in a series. 

The House on the Hill is the third in my Portuguese Paradise series of books. Set in Lagos in the Algarve, it’s about Layla Garcia who runs a yoga and mindfulness studio in the hills above the city. Her apparently well-organised and calm life is knocked sideways when she gets a new neighbour who reminds her of a bit of her past she’d rather forget. 

When I wrote The House That Alice Built, which was the first in the series, I wrote it as a stand-alone. I had no plans to continue Alice’s story on, as my main focus was to actually finish writing the book, which took me 8 years from when I first started it to actually getting it published.

I had fully intended to start on my next novel, which was to be Finding Summer Happiness and set in Wales rather than Portugal, but I felt Alice’s story hadn’t really finished. So, I began to formulate the plot for New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun. In some ways, it wasn’t too difficult – after all, I had the characters and the beautiful setting of Cascais; but I needed to give Alice another challenge or two before she could really be happy, and that took a little while for me to work out. Once I’d realised what hurdles she needed to overcome, however, I found it quite easy to do. I had to decide which characters didn’t need to return, invent a few more, and formulate a way to bring everyone together in the end. 

I also took the story to Lisbon more and also over the River Tejo southwards, which is a beautiful part of the world, so enjoyed revisiting that in my memory too. A long weekend in Lisbon gave me a well-needed burst of energy and I finished the book soon after that, and, rather quickly, the second in the series was done.

Was there more to say for Alice and her friends? I didn’t think so, and therefore began work on Finding Summer Happiness, turning my attention to Pembrokeshire with other characters and new dilemmas.

I couldn’t really let Portugal go, though, and during the period of the pandemic when I couldn’t visit my beloved Lagos in the Algarve, the idea for a story set there began to find its way steadily into my mind. I wanted to connect it to the first two, but had a whole new set of characters I wanted to spend time with, and so spent a few weeks deciding whose story needed a little bit more attention from the first two books. I’m not giving anything away, but someone has travelled down to Lagos and spent time with Layla and her friends, and has a little storyline of their own. There are also a few tiny cameos along the way, too.

I had great fun dotting in references here and there about the first two novels and some of the people in them, so that anyone who has read them can enjoy a knowing smile or two. But for those who are new to the books, they wouldn’t know, so it can be enjoyed as a story on its own.

What’s common to all of them is Portugal, of course, and once again I have immersed myself in the beauty, vibrancy, colour and warmth of the country and hopefully that has come across in the new book. Layla looks down from her 'House on the Hill' to the long, golden sands of Meia Praia, with the lagoon at one end and the city at the other, and drives down into Lagos for work, or food, or even a ride on the road train. The research into all of this was very, very rigorous, I must say, and I’m more than happy to do it again. So, although I’m now writing something different, Portugal is always calling, so I’m sure there’ll be a Portuguese Paradise book 4 in the not too distant future.

Thank you, Chris. It's interesting that you couldn't let Portugal go. For me, setting plays an important part in a story and it's clear that your love of the country shines through in your books. I wish you every success with Book 3 of the series.


The House on the Hill: A Summer in the Algarve (Portuguese Paradise Book 3) 

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?

Buying link here:


Chris 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 Happiness, set in Pembrokeshire in South West Wales, is available in e-book, audio and paperback. 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 Books Podcast - where she chats to her friends about books. Good title!

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.


Twitter: @ChrisPenhall

Instagram: christinepenhall

Facebook: Chris Penhall Author

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed finding out about Chris and her Portuguese series as much as I did. What do you like about reading novels in a series? Why not share your thoughts in a comment? Thank you.

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer page. 

To find out more about me and my novels, please visit my AMAZON page.