My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith
I am a big fan of Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series, as I posted about recently, and have been excited for a while to read this novel of his, out last spring, which is set in my favorite locale, Tuscany. The novel starts off fantastically. Paul, a Scottish author of food memoirs, is heartbroken as his girlfriend of four years has just left him for her personal trainer. His editor suggests that he heal his broken heart and finish his book, which is overdue to the publisher, by spending some time in Tuscany, as his latest book is about Tuscan food. Once he arrives in Italy, there is a mix up at the car rental location and his reservation is invalid. As it is the summer high season, there are no other cars to be found, and in a scam, the car rental clerk convinces Paul to sign a paper saying that his car is in good condition. When he cannot return said car, as it didn't exist, he is thrown in an Italian jail accused of car theft. Fortunately, an Italian acquaintance is able to come to his rescue and get him released. This acquaintance also knows someone who rents cars, so takes Paul to obtain one.
Being the height of the tourist season, even this friend doesn't have any cars to rent. However, he does have a bulldozer that is not reserved for another few weeks, and offers that to Paul. Realizing it is ludicrous, but that he doesn't have any other option, Paul accepts, and drives the bulldozer on the highway all the way to Tuscany, feeling ridiculous, but also a little bit free, the entire way.
Once there, he finds he is inspired by his surroundings and the food, and enjoys getting to know some of the people in the community. He comes across an American woman whose car is in a ditch, and he uses his bulldozer to rescue her. They become friends, and Paul can't deny the chemistry between them, and he hopes that he might have found not only professional but also personal inspiration in Italy. As things heat up with Anna, Paul's ex appears, having caught a flight from Scotland, as well as his editor, who heard the ex was coming and came to try to do damage control and prevent them from getting back together, as she has never thought they made a good couple. It is in this phase of the book that the light-hearted joviality of the misadventures of the first section of the book changes, and it takes on a more serious tone. I so enjoyed the first part, that I was a little disappointed in this shift, but the book was still entertaining and engaging.
In the end, the ex remains an ex, Anna remains committed to her long-term boyfriend, and Paul leaves Italy having finished his book, reclaimed his joie de vivre, and with a new love on his arm. It was delightful and charming, as is all of Smith's work, and I recommend this one for anyone looking for a light-hearted, fun, romance set in Tuscany.