COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)– Romance novels never went away, but they have rebranded and are having a moment.

Penguin Books this week released Columbus author Kerry Rea’s sophomore RomCom novel “Lucy on the Wild Side” which is set in various locations throughout Central Ohio, most notably the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium where main character Lucy Rouke works as a primatologist.

“I think this genre, one thing it’s known for is having happy endings, and I think over the last few years with COVID and all of the changes the world has gone through, that’s put people through so much stress [they’re] really enjoying things where they can look forward to a happy ending and enjoy the ride as well,” Rea said. “So I think stuff that’s a bit more light-hearted is becoming more popular again because people need a mental break of the ins and outs of real life.”

A social media form of word-of-mouth called “BookTok” is also fueling the resurgence. “The New York Times” highlighted the phenomena this summer, noting “many of this year’s best-selling books have something in common, but it’s not any of the usual factors: a famous or long-established author, a tie-in with a movie or TV show,” but rather TikTok popularity.

Five of the top 10 best sellers on Amazon so far this year are by BookTok favorite romance author Colleen Hoover. Some of Rea’s favorite RomCom authors such as Jasmine Guillory, whose books are set in cities in the Bay Area and West Coast, have also landed on a best-seller list.

“It always makes me want to go and visit those places,” Rea said.

She hopes her novels, “The Wedding Ringer” and now “Lucy on the Wild Side,” do that for Columbus.

“I think a lot of time people don’t really know all that Columbus has to offer,” Rea added. “So I have friends in New York or California say, ‘Oh, this place sounds really cool,’ [and I say], ‘Yes, it’s a wonderful city and great suburbs … there’s so much to do.'”

“I tried to capture the essence of Columbus and the places that I love,” she said.