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Improvisation—the cover itself is intriguing. It hints at a beautiful, elegant woman. Superimposed over the form is a stylized instrument—a violin—a symbol for one of the essential themes of this story. Tina Nelson is a musician who likes the unconstrained music of improvisation. This, it turns out, is the basic premise of her life—to be unfettered, free to go, do, and be at her own whim. Jan Carroll, at first blush, is the complete and utter opposite. She longs for stability and the status quo and is working toward that. To top it all off, she’s about to move her dad into her home with her. He’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and will need more care as time goes on. Last on Jan’s list of stabilizing items is looking for someone to spend the rest of her life with, someone whose life matches her own in steadiness and commitment.
The two women have met once. At their mutual friend’s wedding rehearsal, they ogled one another and went their separate ways. Jan returned to her sedate life and Tina to her spontaneous one. When their mutual friend conquers Tina’s resistance and gets her to commit to contacting Jan when she travels to Spokane to visit family, she reluctantly does so. As far as Tina’s concerned, she’ll call Jan, set up a meeting for a drink and be done with it. When Jan gets the call, she’s unnerved because she’s been fantasizing about Tina since she left the wedding rehearsal.
When Tina drags her cousin, Peter, along to the meeting, Jan shows up with a fellow teacher named Chloe in tow. While Tina and Jan try to get through the night, Tina feeling the drudgery of commitment from a promise to a friend, and Jan trying to stay in the reality of the moment and not jump Tina’s bones, Chloe and Peter forget they are supposed to be supporting their respective friends through the meeting, and instead, spend all their time being enamored with each other. Once the get-together is over, the two women go their separate ways breathing a sigh of relief, albeit for very different reasons. However, that’s not the end of the story because the two keep being thrown together into varying situations. First, Peter and Chloe contrive to bring them along in order to be together, but eventually, Jan and Tina find their own way into each other’s lives.
As the two women exchange thoughts, bits and pieces of their lives and their longings, they each come to the conclusion that the other person is the furthest possible potential partner either woman could possibly fathom, despite the growing attraction. What the women don’t realize is that the more time they spend together, the more they come to an understanding of their own lives and families and the more they are drawn to the inevitability of their own relationship.
Walsh tells this story in achingly beautiful words, phrases and paragraphs, building a tension that is bittersweet. As the two main characters sway through life to the music of their souls, the reader may think she hears the strains of Tina’s violin. The main characters are skillfully drawn, as is Jan’s dad, the distinctly loveable and wise Glen Carroll. As the two women interact, there is always an undercurrent of sensuality buzzing around the edges of the pages, even while they exchange sometimes snappy, sometimes comic dialogue. Improvisation, it turns out, may be something to embrace and something to be let go of—and the story recounts this lesson. But will it be accepted or rejected by the women in order for them to find true love? Improvisation is a true romantic tale, Walsh’s fourth book, and she’s evolving into a master romantic storyteller.
By Karis Walsh
Bold Strokes Books
Paperback, 9781602828725, 192 pp.