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?
You Can Purchase the Book: Amazon
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.
Finding Summer Happiness was a delight! It is my first novel by Chris Penhall, but it will not be my last as it was an enjoyable easy read with a fun cast of characters in a beautiful setting on the south Wales coast. The main character Miriam Ryan is burnt out with her current life. She is ready for some rest, relaxation, and solitude in a cottage by the sea set in a village from her childhood, but her trip might not be what she bargained for when it comes with terms that she was not expecting. Right away, this story was intriguing and relatable, as many people, including myself, at one time or another has wanted to escape it all and live a quieter life.
When Miriam arrives she is expecting some peaceful isolation, however, she is soon met with unexpected guests. There is a man, Alan, living in the property’s summer house that she was unaware would be there. He also happens to be the property owner, Joanna’s nephew. She finds that this is not her only obstacle as the contract included the property owner, now Joanna during the rental, to continue to host community events. This includes cooking and entertaining guests. Miriam is overwhelmed with these unexpected obstacles and calls the letting agent, Rhiannon. She also contacts her personal assistant, Justin, who made the booking. She finds out that this part of the contract was overlooked, but is still valid and, therefore, is now Miriam’s responsibility. This includes making meals and hosting events for others, which were all things she was trying to avoid and a very similar situation to the one she was trying to escape.
The setting of the novel was gorgeous with the cliffs and sea. I love the coast, so this novel was written in my ideal location. Surrounded by various and entertaining guests and villagers, Miriam must try to work through the issues she was avoiding and to try to find happiness in this new setting. I loved this group of characters, as they were quirky in their own way. Each were interesting and together it was a well-rounded cast in the story. Miriam is a standout character as she wants to help others and can sometimes become too involved with them to remember to think about herself. She has a lot going on in her life including her previous business, the loss of her mother, and a heart-breaking break-up. I loved her looking at the stars through the telescope, taking some quiet nature walks, and trying to mediate as ways of helping her deal with her stress levels.
Overall, this was a heart-warming read. There is a nice theme of taking some moments to care for yourself no matter how crazy life gets. Miriam has a lot going on and she wants to care for others, so I liked how she slowly learned to find some balance. While it may not be perfect, I rooted for her to grow and find a way to find her own happiness. The sense of community in this story was fantastic and I loved the romance aspect that slowly developed. The two characters complimented each other well and I greatly enjoyed having them get to know the other over time. This story was a nice escape read with bits of realism and I cannot wait to read more from this author!
**I give a special thank you to Rachel @rararesources,, the publisher, and the author for the opportunity to participate with this enjoyable novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**