The novel “Lucy on the Wild Side” takes place at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

The Columbus Zoo as the backdrop for an emotionally and factually gripping romance novel

You might expect the romance novels to be set in seaside resorts, gothic castles, or New York skyscrapers.

Columbus author Kerry Rea adds a twist to the formula with a light-hearted but emotionally charged novel set at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Lucy Rourke, a 30-year-old zookeeper in the primate department looking to move up the zoo’s hierarchy, is just recovering from the breakdown of a longtime romance. She seeks to focus more on her gorilla charges than on more human companionship when she meets the charismatic, hunky, and irritatingly smug Kai Bridges, who is, at least in Lucy’s initial opinion, an “arrogant and arrogant mansplainer.” ignorant”.

Kai is the host of a popular wildlife TV show and the son of Lucy’s longtime hero, Jane Goodall-like gorilla expert Dr. Charlotte Kimball.

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He arrived at the zoo to spend a month filming a documentary series, with a particular focus on gorillas, including Keeva, a four-month-old baby from another zoo whose parents died in an outbreak of E.Coli and who desperately needs a surrogate mother, a role Lucy hopes can be played by one of the Columbus Zoo gorillas.

Lucy has no interest in appearing on camera, but for Keeva’s sake, as well as to further her career, she agrees. As Kai trains her and the two spend time watching Keeva’s progress, they open up to each other and sparks begin to fly.

As the romance propels the novel, Lucy has a rich life beyond, including friends from her professional life, a mother who left her with her grandmother when she was young to go to Hollywood and work as a star. soap opera, and a younger half-sister who she resents having the relationship with her mother Lucy always wished she had. These mother issues create a surprising bond with Kai, who has a few.

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Although Rea’s Columbus Zoo is populated by a cast of fictional characters — even the gorillas don’t share their names with their real-life counterparts — readers curious about the zoo’s behind-the-scenes operations, how medical issues are faced and how life in the gorilla enclosure, will find that Rea has done her homework. The subplot involving Keeva and her integration into the gorilla troupe is fully developed, rather than added as an afterthought.

Readers in the Columbus area should also appreciate the references to local landmarks such as Liberty Tavern and Huli Huli in Powell.

Lucy is an attractive heroine, and the obstacles to her relationship with Kai are presumably rooted in her background and personality. Rea’s quirky sense of humor keeps the mood light: when Lucy and Kai flirt, they do so by swapping “weird animal facts” such as: “Some butterflies drink blood” and “Cows kill more of humans than sharks”.

Readers looking for a quick and spicy novel with an educational wildlife twist should enjoy this one.

Irene B. Bowles