The Back Up Plan by Elsie McArthur

Thank you to Elsie McArthur for a copy of her debut novel – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. This is a 4.5 star read for me.


That’s the question for thirty-something Marsaili McKenzie. Ten years after fleeing her tiny coastal village for dreams of fame and fortune in the big city, she finds herself on the brink of an existential crisis. Far from being the star actress she once imagined, she’s still working as a barmaid in a Glasgow theatre while all around her, her friends and family are getting engaged, pregnant or promoted. 

It’s all she can do to keep her head above water. But as a new year approaches, she resolves to give her acting dreams one last shot. That is, until a couple of unexpected distractions arrive on the scene. 

Will Hunter is undeniably handsome, as well as being aloof, socially awkward, posh and in the middle of a nasty divorce. And to make things even more complicated, he’s also her new boss. 

Local boy made good, soap star Euan Campbell, is the epitome of a charismatic leading man. His easy-going charm soon sweeps Marsaili off her feet, but is there more to him than meets the eye? 

To top it all off, Marsaili finds herself inexplicably drawn back to the simple, rural life she used to loathe. Can she finally figure out which dreams are worth pursuing, and would it really be so bad to resort to her back up career after all? 

Join Marsaili as she navigates the choppy seas of love, family, friendship and self-discovery. This heart-warming novel is full of romance, laughter and more than enough drama to keep you on the edge of your seat!

My thoughts:

Firstly, I need to mention the stunning cover which fits the story perfectly (although I may be biased because my daughter is a redhead too). As someone who lives in landlocked Wiltshire in the middle of the global pandemic, a glimpse of the sea was much appreciated.

Marsaili (rhymes with parsley) grew up in rural Scotland with a loving family but is living and working in Glasgow looking for a dream acting role. This book follows how her life starts to change after meeting her baby niece for the first time. There are some great comic moments, some romantic opportunities and plenty of drama, not just on the stage of the theatre.

I enjoyed the writing style of the story, full of detail to transport the reader to the theatre, a train, a wedding or a restaurant. The characters quickly became real and the story flowed over the pages. I was able to read the book over a quiet day at the weekend.

I love how Marsaili enjoys helping at her friend Isla’s Primary School – nice to see a positive story about helping/working in a school.

If you enjoy reading books about family, friendship and romance, and would like a virtual visit to Scotland, then please read a copy of the Back Up Plan. I’m looking forward to reading Elsie’s next book, which is released later this year.

Elsie McArthur:

Elsie McArthur is an independent author of women’s fiction. After studying law at university, and then re-training as a primary school teacher, she now lives in the Highlands of Scotland with her husband, two kids, a couple of badly behaved dogs and a cat with a superiority complex. As well as continuing to work part time as a teacher, she is now indulging in her first love of writing. Her first book, ‘The Back Up Plan’, was released in January 2020. Her second novel, ‘Love, on the Rocks’ – a tale of love, loss and starting over set on the remote Scottish island of Inniscreag – is due for release in Summer 2020.

View all my reviews


By Karen K is reading

An avid reader from the age of 4. Love escaping into a good novel after a busy day working with students. Mum. Adopter of dogs.


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