Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Kerry Rea - Lucy on the Wild Side

Lucy Rourke has two great loves in her life: the gorilla troop she cares for as a primatologist and the laundry list of reality TV shows she watches to escape the fact that her actual love life doesn’t exist. And like a reality contestant gunning for the final rose, Lucy’s laser-focused on one thing: getting promoted to head keeper. So when a wildlife docuseries hosted by hotshot TV personality Kai Bridges chooses her zoo as its summer filming location, she sees an opportunity to showcase her beloved gorillas to the world and land a starring role in her department.
When Kai and his film crew arrive, however, it's obvious to Lucy that Kai cares more about sky-high ratings than the gorillas, and he considers her a camera-averse know-it-all whose wardrobe consists entirely of khaki. But she’s surprised to discover there’s more to him than his rugged good looks and cheesy catchphrases...and that maybe a promotion isn’t the only thing she wants. But when secrets from their pasts threaten to complicate everything, Lucy discovers that happiness and success aren’t the same thing—and that finding joy just might mean getting a little wild.

Comment: I got this book because it was on a list I was checking with contemporary romances. This one sounded interesting, both for the theme and the possible enemies to lovers trope, and I was sold.

Lucy is a junior assistant at the zoo, being her specialty the primates, namely the gorillas, and she is looking for to have a promotion and to watch the zoo being featured on the famous TV show On The Wild Side with Kai Bridges. The show is renown for its approach and it has gained many fans, not only for the content but also for Kai, a handsome man and the son of a famous investigator, so much that his like of his mother's were portrayed in a Hollywood movie.
However, Lucy is left disappointed when she meets Kai and believes he isn't anything at all like his TV persona, to the point he tells her the information on the book written by his mother, which Lucy loves, isn't all true. This means they can't seem to get along after all, and Lucy isn't keen on being on camera, but when she is told she must for work reasons, Kai decides to offer his help. But is he being genuine or does he want to catch Lucy failing? Is there any hope for them?

I had a good time reading this story. I think it was fun and had many interesting scenes and there wasn't a dull moment. This doesn't mean it was all action when, in fact, there was plenty of situations where we could follow the characters' personalities through their actions. The story is narrated by Lucy and I do think the author could have gone a step further by having Kai's too, because there are situations in which not having his POV makes Lucy sound a little condescending and unfair.

The plot is quite engaging because a huge part of the story happens at the zoo. Anyone who has visited one probably did it for the fun experience and not as much for the educational factor, and here we have information on both things, which tells me the author certainly interviewed people who work at a zoo and collected information on many things one would not think of, such as the diet of the gorillas or other animals. I also liked all the little animal related factoids Lucy and Kai at some point exchange, both the amusing and the simply weird, because they offered information on animals and I would never think of investigating that information specifically.

Still, the story isn't only about the zoo or Lucy'a work with the gorillas, although we do have a lot on that, and every information included in the story makes it richer and more complete. There is also a lot on Lucy as a person, about her personality and about her personal live. She lives with her grandmother since she broke up with her last boyfriend and she tries her best to not create a bond with half sister Mia, because her mother Karina left Lucy with her grandmother to become an actress, and now she is finally being a mother to someone else. There's food for thought here, of course, all these things pack a punch and force Lucy to think. 

I'd say this element is quite realistic and done well enough (no melodramatic scenes I mean), but it also meant that Lucy had this way of thinking that made her seem adamant on being alone and of not having closer bonds than friendship. I get it but it means a romance would always feel as if she would be giving in to those feelings instead or keeping her independence and higher posture. I don't think this was intentional but it was how I saw it.. so much focus on why she felt like being alone made her change of heart later on something a little... forced.

Kai is also a fascinating character, and not only for the romance element. He has a famous mother (made me think of Jane Goodall for her work with gorillas) but what people know about his childhood and the events that propelled his mother to one day rescue him instead of a troop of gorillas, whose leader was killed, isn't all correct. It is true this happened and later on was turned into a movie, but Kai still remembers the guilt his mother never let him get over, of having to have made a choice then, her son or the gorillas that were her life.

I think this was quite the complex situation but since the book is primarily a romance, this was dealt with in a way I didn't find enough. Closer to the end, after all the big conflicts are solved and the HEA is coming, we learn about Kai and Lucy's decisions about the future, which I liked well enough, but at the back of my mind this issue with his mother remained and I can't help feeling it's like something which wasn't truly solved. Perhaps it was only my impression.

Anyway, all things considered, this was good story to read, had a good enough balance of serious plot situations and fun scenes and I might look for something else by the author one day.
Grade: 8/10

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