The Backup Plan, by Jill Shalvis

January 16, 2023 Book Reviews 5 ★★★★½

The Backup Plan, by Jill ShalvisThe Backup Plan by Jill Shalvis
Series: Sunrise Cove #3
Published by William Morrow on Jan. 17, 2023
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Kindle or ebook
Source: the publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Bookshop | Barnes & Noble | Audible | Chirp
Add to Goodreads

Also by this author: One Snowy Night, Chasing Chrismas Eve, Holiday Wishes, About That Kiss, Lost and Found Sisters, The Good Luck Sister, Hot Winter Nights, Playing for Keeps, Almost Just Friends

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis returns to Sunrise Cove with a heartwarming tale of three people who are bought together when they’re bequeathed an old Wild West inn that has the potential to pull their lives apart, but instead turns into the gift of a lifetime.

When Alice receives a call about an unexpected windfall, she’s stunned to learn the gift is a falling-apart-at-the-seams old Wild West B&B she once considered home—and she’s inherited it along with two strangers. Except they weren’t always strangers. Once upon a time, they were friends. One is her ex-BFF Lauren. The other is Knox, the only guy to ever break her heart, all while never even knowing she existed.

It turns out their lives are unknowingly entangled because they once separately helped the same woman without expecting anything in return. Years later, Alice, Lauren, and Knox are broken in their own way, with their own history—and secrets— causing them to start out on the wrong foot with each other. But according to the will, they must renovate and be partners in the inn for one year or else lose their inheritance.

Stuck together, they make a list of rules to keep the peace—rules that end up doing the opposite, but by some miracle they find what they didn’t even know they were looking for—acceptance, true friendship, and in a case (or two!), true love.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

This book contains mature content and may not be suitable for younger readers.

Strong characters, compelling relationships

I have been drifting away from contemporary romances and contemporary fiction lately, but I plowed through The Backup Plan in under 24 hours. The characters grabbed my attention early on, and kept it — especially Alice. Which surprised me, because Alice is not the sort of heroine I usually relate to.

Shalvis writes “prickly, hard-edged heroine who is really protecting a soft and deeply wounded heart” in a way that reminds me of some of Nora Roberts’s heroines. Being a heart-on-my-sleeve type myself, it’s not a personality type I identify with or even understand well outside of fiction, but Shalvis completely sold me on Alice. And I was almost as invested in Alice’s partners in the inn, Lauren and Knox.

To my mind, The Backup Plan is not technically a romance; it’s a novel with a romance subplot. (Two of them, actually; one major and one minor.) The main plot isn’t “two people fall in love”; it’s “three people, all running from painful pasts, learn to stop running, face their fears and their pain, and (re)build relationships.” Although their personalities and lives are different, all three main characters are on the same emotional arc, more or less: facing their past traumas, healing, and finally taking the emotional risks they have been avoiding for years.

Their approaches to this reflect their individual personalities, of course. And it’s all complicated by the pieces of the past that they share… in particular, the departed Eleanor, whose influence on their lives was profound, and also the death of Alice’s brother Will.

As characters, Alice, Laurence, and Knox are almost equally important in the book. Almost, but not quite. And Alice and Lauren’s broken friendship is every bit as important as Alice and Knox’s growing relationship. But Alice is at the very heart of the novel. She’s the one in the most pain, the one with the most self-destructive coping mechanisms, the one who most needs the other two in order to heal (though she would never admit it.) And so she was also the one I was rooting for the most.

There’s a lot I like about this novel. I love the interactions between the characters, both the snarky interchanges (and the growing list of rules!) and the occasional deeper, more heartfelt conversations. I appreciate how each character grows throughout the novel, and how they become more supportive and understanding of one another. I also really enjoy how well Shalvis establishes a sense of place. The old inn and the Tahoe mountains felt real, to the point that I could almost smell the pines and feel the crisp mountain air. In a similar way, she uses small details to ground the reader in each scene and make the characters and their interactions come alive. But it’s the characters and their growth and interactions that kept me turning the pages.

I’m still not ready to load up my TBR with lots of contemporary fiction again; the siren song of other genres is too strong right now. But I’m glad I took a chance on The Backup Plan!

This book counts toward the NetGalley & Edelweiss Challenge and COYER Upside Down Ch. 1.


About Jill Shalvis

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website,, for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • COYER Upside-Down 2023: Chapter 1
  • NetGalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge 2023

5 Responses to “The Backup Plan, by Jill Shalvis”

  1. Katherine

    I’ve found myself drifting away from contemporary romance especially but am trying to get back to the genre as I’ve found I do miss it. This was such a fun one and it was a good reminder of why I enjoy Jill Shalvis’ books.