cover image Lucy on the Wild Side

Lucy on the Wild Side

Kerry Rea. Berkley, $17 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-593-20186-2

Rea’s excellent sophomore novel (after The Wedding Ringer) follows a couple who must face the trauma of their pasts to find happiness in the future. Zookeeper Lucy is thrilled when it’s announced that the zoo she works at will be featured on the next season of On the Wild Side with Kai Bridges. Reading about Kai’s mother, a famous primatologist, is what inspired Lucy to dedicate her life to gorillas, and Kai might be the closest she can get to meeting her hero. So of course, their first meeting is disastrous: Kai corrects Lucy’s facts and she dismisses him as a conceited mansplainer. When Lucy’s boss asks her to head a project pairing an orphaned baby gorilla with a surrogate mother, a process Kai wants to feature on the show, she’s not as excited as she could be. It means both spending time with Kai and appearing on camera, something Lucy’s avoided ever since her mother abandoned her to act in soap operas. But as Kai helps Lucy prepare for her close-up, the pair bond over their shared love of weird animal facts and their tense parent-child relationships. Rea elevates the enemies-to-lovers trope with crackling chemistry, light humor, and genuine emotional nuance. Rom-com lovers should snap this up. (Oct.)