Romance is a Bonus Book (2019) KDrama Review

Updated: May 27



I realize this won't be a drama for everyone. But I LOVED it.


10/10 ⭐️

Rated on my drama list.


It's the 5th drama I've ever rated 10/10. I've set it on the top shelf next to masterpieces like Goblin (2016), Heirs (2013), While You Were Sleeping (2017), and Descendants of the Sun (2016).


And yet... I'm not sure who to recommend it to, or how.


This story falls into multiple niche markets, that aren't guaranteed to overlap. It just so happens to be the perfect storm for me.



What this Drama has to offer:

  • Book Lovers

  • A Second Chance at Life

  • A Mysterious Author

  • Work at a Publishing House

  • Rock Bottom

  • Broken Hearts

  • Comedy


It's also somehow multiple genres of Romantic Comedy at once

  • Childhood Friends to Lovers

  • Live-in Lover

  • Work Place Romance

  • Second Chance at Love

  • Younger Man, Older Woman

  • Love Triangle

  • Cinderella Story



See what I mean? It's a lot.


I'll admit it doesn't do every single story element justice. But what it devotes screen time to is done well. And honestly, what's left hanging feels like the chaos that crowds our real life. You can't keep up with everything all the time.


The Plot


Our female protagonist Kang Dan Yi is 37. Divorced. A single Mother. Unemployed. And just nearly homeless.



This drama opens with a disorienting flashback of her wedding day. I say disorienting because our male lead Cha Eun Ho (not the groom) looks exactly the same. Really the only tip off that we're in the past is that her wedding style is outdated.


This wasn't a good place for the story to open.



We don't know our characters yet. We don't know their history, or what their current relationship is. So when Kang Dan Yi gets cold feet and hides in the backseat of Eun Ho's car we don't know how to feel about it.


Yes, it sets up clearly that Dan Yi had second thoughts about her husband to be. And yes it shows that Eun Ho is her dear friend. But we don't feel any of the weight behind his words when Eun Ho tells Dan Yi


Tell me if you want to go somewhere else. I'll take you.

and she replies


I have...nowhere to go.

The only hint we get for what's to come is the scene of them running back to her wedding holding hands, looking as if they are the betrothed.



And then present day crashes down around us.


Kang Dan Yi fails interview after interview. She's been out of work for too long.


Her previously successful career in broadcasting means nothing now because she took a career break to care for her family. Housework was a full time job all those years, so she knows she can be a good employee again, if only someone was willing to hire her.



Her daughter is attending school abroad. Dan Yi is barely getting by, squatting in a house with no electricity or water. It's the home she previously owned.


She's working odd jobs, including secretly taking over as housekeeper for Eun Ho, who is busy being young and successful.


She's too proud to ask for help. She hasn't even told Eun Ho about her divorce.


Things continue to get worse for her until the night she finally breaks.


Enter Prince Charming.



Imagine this: You're about to send the last of your money to your daughter who has gotten sick at school. You're on your way to an interview you probably won't pass, for a job that's too far away, and while waiting for the buss you lose your only shoe.


Obviously the gods hate you. Right? Obviously you're gonna throw the other shoe out in despair. Right?


But then! Later that night, while you're wandering in the rain... drinking... barefoot... and getting accosted by a drunk... prince charming shows up!


His name is Ji Seo Joon and he returns your shoes to you?


It's a super classy, modern day, Cinderella story 😂


Ji Seo Joon lives in the neighborhood. He's a strong willed book designer, extremely kind soul, and on a quest to find a missing author. His act of kindness is a shining bright light in her darkest moment.



Afterwards Kang Dan Yi goes to Eun Ho's house. Defeated. She asks to stay the night because she has nowhere else to go. She even confesses to the divorce the next morning.


Eun Ho doesn't believe her. How could she possibly keep such trouble secret from him?



The Romance


What we learn later on is just how long these two have known each eachother.



When they were little Kang Dan Yi pushed Eun Ho out of the way of an oncoming car. She was hospitalized for a year as a result. Eun Ho repaid her by becoming her errand boy.


That year, Eun Ho discovered a love of books that would go on to become the basis for his successful author / editor career. And an even greater love for his eccentric older friend, Kang Dan Yi.


After she got married, Eun Ho would find himself secretly standing outside her house whenever he got drunk because he missed her so much.



His relationships don't last because Kang Dan Yi is the only one he's ever truly loved.



Back to the Plot


While at Eun Ho's house Kang Dan Yi discovers the hiring advertisement for Geyoroo Publishing. The company Eun Ho works for. Stated under the job description for temporary support staff are the magic words: No Degree Required.


Feeling out of options she applies for the position as a high school graduate. Eliminating all mention of her higher education and previous career. If hired she'll be nothing more than an office lackey.


After seeing her at the interview, Eun Ho finally believes she is telling the truth about her current troubles.



Kang Dan Yi gets the support staff position.


The two childhood friends pretend not to know each other at work.


And Kang Dan Yi manages to secretly continue living in his house.


It's silly.




The Office Drama


Any book lover will love the setting of a publishing house. The coworkers and upper management have fun, clashing, personalities. They're each distinct enough to fall in love with immediately.



Kang Dan Yi is eager to prove herself as a valuable part of the office, but her longing is in conflict with her position as support staff. While she's happy to just have a job, she's also inherently ambitious and runs into trouble being the lowest rank.



But she is determined to learn as much as she can to someday integrate fully into the office.


All the while, knowledge that she lied on her resume and is lying about her relationship to Eun Ho looms over head.


What is right vs. what must be done.


Geyoroo Publishing is small enough to continuously wrestle with the argument of business vs. art.


During meetings the employees clash over whether they should they publish moving poetry collections or books that will actually sell.



What is right vs. what must be done.


The authors they wrangle are an eccentric, sensitive, temperamental bunch, which means there's never a dull moment. But also that the stakes of what they do are very high.


They don't "just make books". They change lives, they save lives, they sacrifice parts of their own lives.



In their own way, every single character in this drama is dealing with their own heartache.



The Mysterious Author


There is a mystery surrounding Geyoroo Publishing. As a small company, they largely owe their success to the biggest author they have under contract: Kang Byeong-jun.


A hugely popular author, Kang Byeong-jun suddenly announced his retirement from writing, even before finishing the novel he was working on, titled Heroes. He gave all rights to his published work to Geyoroo & every book lover in Korea wants to know why.


Especially Ji Seo Joon.



Who also intends to date Kang Dan Yi. [Love Triangle]



Nothing About this Drama Will Surprise You


Eventually Eun Ho realizes Dan Yi is living in his home and becomes determined to keep her there. [Live in Lovers]



He will tell her how he feels, but he needs to be smart about it because he can't ruin their friendship. They are all each other has. [Childhood Friends to Lovers]


They try to keep their relationship a secret from the rest of the office. [Office Romance]




Fantasy. Wish Fulfillment. Charm.


The fantasy of this story is finding out you had someone beside you all along.


Kang Dan Yi starts out feeling scared and hopeless. She keeps her burdens secret from Eun Ho, but once she finally leans on him, things turn around.



It's hard to do everything on your own. And when you find yourself in that position, the single greatest comfort can be realizing someone is there to share your burden.


Kang Dan Yi continuously says she's on her own, despite Eun Ho being right there with her.


So when she grows close to Ji Seo Joon, Eun Ho finally breaks, asking her how she could have gotten so close to a complete stranger so fast.


she replies:


I was sitting at the bus station. I had no where to go. And I was hungry.

and he replies:


You have me! You keep saying you have no where to go. But stop saying that. Im your home.

and she responds:


What's gotten into you? You sound like a corny guy in a romance drama.


It'll take a little while longer, but she'll come around eventually.




In Conclusion


You can probably see now what I mean about this story being in lots of niche markets at once.


You could tell me you hated it, and I would see your point.


It would really appeal to anyone whose a book lover, struggling through a career break, a sucker for second chances at love, and for romance between childhood friends, and... feels the heartache of deciding between what you know is right and what must be done.



But if you're asking my opinion.... WOULD RECOMMEND 👌


You can watch this one on Netflix.



Thanks for reading,

Amanda

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