The Rehearsals is one big problem. Billed as a combination of Groundhog Day with the 2020 film Palm Springs, it does have romantic potential, as hundreds of series that have done time-travel episode can attest to. But when you have your characters doing some pretty unlikable things, it’s hard for your audience to root for their happily ever after.
New Yorkers Tom Prescott and Megan – Megs – Givens are in the midst of preparing for their wedding, with all of the attendant planning hiccups and family drama. Trapped with their very different families and friendship groups on San Juan Island, they are feeling the pressure of their upcoming marriage and slowly beginning to wonder if their love is as fated as they thought it was.
Tom’s country-club-set family does not approve of much of what Megan does or says; they are cold, and clearly wish Tom was marrying someone else – someone they can approve of. Megan – from dysfunctional-in-a-different-way roots, with a single, self-centered and toxically clingy mother – has planned and plotted her way into the life she wanted. Her fiancé has no idea that she had sex with his best friend (and best man) Leo eight years earlier.
Tom, meanwhile, has been battling against his parents and their expectations for years. When he’s given the opportunity to take a new job in Missouri to be closer to his family, he takes it. Without telling Megan first. And he reproaches himself for allowing themselves to fall into a rut and not discussing the ‘big things in their lives’.
Unfortunately, Tom’s father drops the bomb about the move by announcing at the rehearsal dinner that he and Tom’s mother are going to buy a new house for the couple there. Tom then finds Megs and Leo canoodling under the stars and is told by Leo that he loves Megan, resulting in him punching Leo right there at the dinner.
The engagement seems to be off – but when Megs and Tom wake up in the exact same places they awoke the morning before, they realize that they’ve somehow looped back to the previous day, and their rehearsal dinner must be lived through again…and again…and again. Though they retain all of the memories they make during these time loops, no one else stuck in it with them does. Let the games begin.
It’s kind of hard to root for a couple when the bride keeps kissing the groom’s best man and the two of them honestly feel more comfortable with each other – until a miraculous late-book revelation occurs that tries to change their interaction. This is a spoiler, but romance readers will likely want to know:
Megs and Tom never manage to talk until the universe forces them to talk, and when they do talk I never feel like they got to the root of their issues, and instead spent time mulling things over inside their own heads and never actually having a proper discussion. Sure, they can say sappy things to each other and make little romantic moments spark to life, but past the halfway point another person should not be involved in the romantic narrative. If a book has to work this hard to convince me that the main characters are in love, then, as a romance, it is not doing its job.
In the end Tom and Megs are inspired to make changes to their lives, but they’re the sort of people who don’t tell truths or bother to consult each other before making important life decisions first, and some of their actions show that they haven’t learned from those mistakes. For those reasons alone, the book fails. Honestly, I ended up feeling that Megan and Leo were the fated couple here, even if he didn’t want to have kids and expected her to quit her job to follow him around for his. The only thing I really did like was Megs finally learning how to confront and cut off her toxic mother.
The Rehersals flunks the romance test, and thus is not recommendable or heart-pounding as hoped for. Too bad, because that is one cute cover.