Hi everybody, and welcome to a new Something Different Sunday, on which I talk about… well something different from books.
Today I want to highlight a kdrama that is very near and dear to my heart and that is Romance Is A Bonus Book. I first watched this drama last year and just recently rewatched it (the first and so far the only kdrama I ever rewatched) and it just… means so much to me. So I figured, why not write something about it?
I actually really believe this is a kdrama that a lot of other people would probably also enjoy as 1) it’s available on Netflix and 2) it features a love of books that I know many of us bookworms will really, really appreciate.
So without further ado, please let me explain why I loved it so much that it’s not only my favorite kdrama ever, but also my favorite overall show ever!
What it’s about:
Romance is a Bonus Book is the story about a woman called Kang Dan-I (Lee Na-Young) who has gotten into some troubles in life. She used to be an award-winning advertising copywriter, but then got married and chose to stay at home to raise their daughter. So when her husband eventually leaves her penniless, jobless and homeless, she struggles to find a job because nobody wants to hire someone who hasn’t had a job in years. She barely gets by with part-time jobs and by pretending to be her best friend’s housekeeper and showering and eating at his place in secret. Not giving up, she decides to lie about her degree and ends up working a temporary support job at the publishing company that same best friend, Cha Eun-Ho (Lee Jong-Suk), is the main editor at. The series then delves into both their personal and professional challenges, as well as their true feelings for each other.
Why I loved it so much:
A soft, sweet and healthy friends-to-lovers romance
Kang Dan-I and Cha Eun-Ho have been friends ever since they were little kids and Dan-I saved Eun-Ho’s life in an accident. Eun-Ho supported Dan-I during her recovery, they bonded over their love of books and have been best friends ever since. Though Dan-I doesn’t tell Eun-Ho about her troubles at first, when he eventually does find out he does everything he can to help her. They end up living together and, even though Eun-Ho was hesitant about the lie at first, they end up working together as well, even though they’re keeping their friendship a secret from their colleagues. This starts to change their entire relationship, as Eun-Ho has been in love with Dan-I for many years.
The romance between these two characters is just the softest and sweetest ever. They are friends first and their connection is everything. These are two people who support each other unconditionally and would do everything for each other. When their friendship slowly but surely begins to change, their romance is just as soft and positive. While some kdrama romances might be steeped in drama and miscommunication, Dan-I and Eun-Ho are just such a healthy, loving couple. Also, they love spending time reading together, so I’m just saying…
Kang Dan-I, a positive and hard-working character to admire
Dan-I is one of my favorite kdrama heroines because she’s so inspirational. This is a woman who has had to suffer so much. When her husband divorces her and leaves her behind to take care of their daughter without a job and without a home, she fights hard and never gives up. She deals with job interview after job interview, with people telling her they can’t hire her because “while she’s been staying home doing nothing, the world has changed”. The industry doesn’t look favorably at a 37-year old divorcee and single mom. She gets dealt blow after blow and yet she continues to be positive and thankful for any opportunity she does get. When she eventually lies about her degree to get a temporary support job at Gyeoroo Publishing, she doesn’t get demotivated by having to do menial tasks, but works extra hard and tries to contribute to the company however she can. Her efforts and continuous positive attitude eventually endear her to her colleagues.
The setting that is a book lover’s dream
Did I mention that the story mostly takes place at a publishing company? And not just as a random setting either? No, it actually really feels as if Gyeoroo Publishing is another character in this story. It’s so integral to the story and we really get the feeling as if we’re part of the team while watching this. We get to watch the entire process of publishing a book. Every aspect that comes into book publishing gets a spotlight, from the writing to the editing to the marketing to the sales. You know how some people wish they could have gone to Hogwarts or Camp Half-Blood? I kind of wish I could work at Gyeoroo.
And what’s more, every single employee actually LOVES books. They are proud of their accomplishments, they celebrate when a book gets a second edition and they mourn when an error in a book is discovered after printing. There is a scene where the new recruits are being shown the unsold books get shredded and the PAIN was palpable in every character. They love books, and watching these people and the love and care they put into publishing books just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, okay? Plus, there are so many conversations about books, quotes from books, and books used as metaphors and at one point the employees are seen taking pictures of their current reads for Instagram. Relatable, right? Also, reading dates and bookstore dates. Seriously, this whole series is an ode to the bookworm.
The secondary characters, aka the people behind Gyeoroo Publishing
I know I already raved about Gyeoroo Publishing and how much the employees all love books, but I also loved the development of the secondary characters as well. These were not random co-workers, but each and every one of them was a well developed character with their own story arc. There’s CEO Kim Jae-Min, the over-eager, but well-meaning widowed boss who is also a great friend to Eun-Ho. We have Director Go Yuu-Sun, who seems cold, snobby and bitchy but is also just very lonely (and a good dancer). There’s Song Hae-Rin, the editor who has is uber professional but also very temperamental (and who has a long-standing crush on Eun-Ho). We also have Seo Young-Ah, the marketing team manager who is married to the poetry-loving Bong Ji-Hong. And then there are the new recruits, Oh Ji-Yul and Park Hoon, who definitely bring the funny scenes
The emotions and the issues it raises
Though this is generally a very soft and sweet drama, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack a punch either. So many tough things are handled and discussed, but in particular the severity of the work culture and how harsh it is to women especially. Dan-I has issues getting a job because she spent ‘too long’ as a housewife and because of her age. People think she was ‘off being lazy’ while she was taking care of her child and they think she has no business coming back to work at her age because everything changed and she’s become outdated. But also Seo Young-A, Gyeoroo’s marketing director has issues because while she works just like her husband, she is still the one expected to also take care of her child and not him. And Director Go Yu-Seon has maybe had the career she dreamt off, but it came at the cost of everything else and she is very lonely because of it.
The humor that balances it all
Even though the drama tackles some heavy emotions, it definitely also balances it all out with lightness and humor. There are a lot of scenes that’ll make you laugh out loud, and a lot of these scenes come from the hilarious new recruits Oh Ji-Yul, who is a superficial and spoiled girl with an overbearing mother, and Park Hoon, the talkative and eager guy who is all too happy to become Ji-Yul’s fake boyfriend so she can get her mother to stop setting her up on blind dates. That said, I found that the humor was not the slapstick, cringe-with-embarassment kind, but more the unexpected yet relatable kind of humor I personally prefer.
Lee Jong-Suk as Cha Eun-Ho
Lee Jong-Suk is one of my favorite kdrama actors as I’ve watched about 3 dramas featuring him in it, and all three of them immediately became part of my all-time favorites (Other than Romance is a Bonus Book, the other two are While You Were Sleeping and W: Two Worlds). I really loved his portrayal of Cha Eun-Ho and how he managed to make him both arrogant and innocent, both confident and sweet. Plus, I could listen to him reading books and saying Noona all day long.
The little ray of hope and sunshine this drama is to me
There’s something about this drama that just makes me so happy and comforted. Watching this make me feel safe and warm and happy. It’s a combination of all of the above such as the soft romance, the friendship and the love of books that really speaks to me, but it’s also the entire aesthetics of the series. From the cozy clothes that the main characters wear to the soft soundtrack and the gorgeous intro, everything about this drama just feels like a comforting hug to me. It probably also has to do with the fact that, even though I didn’t nearly go through everything Dan-I did, I did relate to her career issues and as such, this show felt like the perfect balm for a wound I didn’t even realize I still had. So really, above all, Romance is a Bonus Book is a drama that gives hope and comfort.
I AM IN LOVE. This is currently not only my all-time favorite kdrama of all time, but also my favorite show overall. And it doesn’t even have any aliens, mermaids, goblins, superpowers or anything fantastical. Romance is a Bonus Book is just a soft, slow-paced, character-driven, sweet story.
The only thing that kept me from giving it 5 stars is that I wish Dan-I’s daughter had been more prominent in the story. I know she was off at boarding school, but a few more scenes with her wouldn’t have hurt, at least in an epilogue. For example, I really wanted to see her react to Dan-I and Eun-Ho together.
But though this bothered me a bit, it doesn’t change the fact that I love this drama so, so much. It’s the only kdrama I watched more than once, and to be honest I think it’ll be a drama I’ll be happy to rewatch at least once a year. I recommend this story to anyone who loves books, soft friends-to-lovers romances, the publishing world, kdramas, and did I mention books?
Watch the trailer
Have you watched Romance is a Bonus Book already? If so, please let me know what was your favorite part of the drama!
If you have not yet watched it, do you think you’d like it?