“Pride in creating, trust, and happiness… Those are what it means to make a book.” – Romance is a Bonus Book
I knew only one thing about this show before I started the first episode – Lee Jong-Suk was next to the words “Romance is a Bonus Book” and, as you can guess, I quickly put it in my Netflix queue. Every now and then I would check to see if all the episodes were available and the minute it was complete, I began watching. It’s a comfortable drama, from beginning to end.
When Cha Eun-Ho was a young child, a stranger named Kang Dan-I risked her life to save him from being run over by a car and the two have been inseparable ever since. To Dan-I, Eun-Ho was just her little brother, the person she knew she could count on no matter what. But Eun-Ho saw Dan-I differently – she was his first and only love. Although Dan-I’s marriage falls apart and she looses her home, Eun-Ho is clueless of her situation because she doesn’t want to burden him with her problems. But when he discovers the fact that she is alone and homeless he, of course, offers to let her stay with him. As luck would have it, Eun-Ho’s publishing company is hiring and Dan-I secures a job there. Now that they are both living and working together will the two buddies be able to keep their relationship on the friendship level or will Eun-Ho’s true feelings for Dan-I help her realize he is not the little brother she always thought he was?
At just thirty-two years old Cha Eun-Ho is the co-founder and chief editor of Gyeoroo Publishing, a professor of Literature Creation at Hangul University, a popular host of his own podcast known as Cha Eun-Ho’s Books Outside the Pages, and a best selling author who made his literary debut while still in high school through the web fiction series entitled The Bloody Contract. After Dan-I saved him from being hit by a car he would visit her in the hospital and got to know her by reading her favorite books. He was surprised and heartbroken the day she introduced him to her boyfriend but, because he loved her and wanted her to be happy, he supported her choice, going so far as to play the piano at her wedding. Because Dan-I has treated him as a little brother, Eun-Ho has never let her know his feelings for her, always keeping things on a best friend level. However, when she begins dating a kind stranger in the neighborhood (someone Eun-Ho had a business related argument with) he wonders if it’s now time to let her know his true feelings.
Before Dan-I graduated from Yeonhui University she entered and won a prize at the SH Advertising’s advertisement contest which led to her employment there. But she gave it all up after she married and became a mother. She has a 12 year old daughter who attends school abroad and since her cheating ex-husband doesn’t help out financially the entire burden of paying for that out-of-the-country education is her sole responsibility. Although she is way over qualified for the job, she is part of the Task Support Team at Gyeoroo Publishing, which is a fancy way of saying she does whatever someone needs her to do – make coffee, photocopy papers, look up information, make phone calls, run errands… While visiting a place where books that can’t be sold are taken to be shredded she begins to think of books as having life and decides she wants “to share these precious lives with as many people as possible so that she [I] won’t be ashamed to face the trees.” Eun-Ho has forever encouraged her and had her back – and she’s always loved him. Why did it take so long for her to realize that?
Other employees at Gyeoroo Publishing…
Song Hae-Rin learned to be the first rate editor she is under the watchful tutelage of Cha Eun-Ho. For the past three years she has had a crush on him but he’s never acknowledged it. To him, Hae-Rin is simply a friend and colleague.
Ji Seo-Joon is a very talented, sought-after designer of book covers and Hae-Rin is bound and determined to get him to sign a contract with Gyeoroo Publishing. He and Dan-I met when he came to her rescue one rainy evening. Although their relationship begins as friendship, he’s hoping it will lead to something more.
Kim Jae-Min is the co-founder and CEO of Gyeoroo Publishing. (Gyeoroo is the pure Korean word for “victorious life.”) His dream is to have everyone in the world read the books he made. He is a widower with two daughters.
Go Yoo-Sun is the second in command at Gyeoroo. She is an ice princess who is 100% business. She may come across as stiff and unfeeling but things aren’t always as they seem.
Park Hoon and Oh Ji-Yoon are interns who joined the company the same day Dan-I did. Hoon is outgoing, enthusiastic, and independent while Ji-Yoon is a naïve momma’s girl who was born with a silver spoon in her mouth.
Seo Young-A is the head of the advertising department. She and Dan-I quickly became friends when they discovered they have both been through a divorce.
Bong Ji-Hong is an editor who eats, drinks, and sleeps poetry. Although Gyeoroo has never published a book of poetry, he won’t give up on trying to make that happen.
Although Lee Jong-Suk has been in numerous Kdramas, this is his first that has been classified as a “romantic comedy.” It’s also the last one we’ll see him in until he returns from his mandatory military assignment, which he began just eight days after he concluded filming Romance is a Bonus Book. If you’d like to know more about this amazing actor you can go to my While You Were Sleeping review.
Lee Na-Young, whose role is that of 37 year old Kang Dan-I, has been away from the small screen, working solely in movies, for the past nine years. She began her career in 1998 through TV commercials (at one time becoming one of the top-ranked and highest paid commercial models) and made her acting debut that same year. It was in 2002, through her starring role in the series Ruler of Your Own World, that her career really began to take off. Some people said she had “one of the most beautiful and idealized faces” in Korea and in 2009 hers was the first Korean face to appear on the cover of the fashion magazine W Korea. In 2015 she married actor Won Bin in a small, private ceremony held in a wheat field. Together the couple have a three year old boy. One interesting bit of information: she almost died while filming a scene where her character tries to hang herself, in the movie Dream.
Romance is a Bonus Book is a show filled with metaphors which isn’t surprising due to the fact that it’s all about people who work with words. Things are said in a creative way and characters think outside the box. It’s even philosophical at times. Maybe that’s why I thought the show was comfortable. As one who uses writing as a hobby I felt very much at home with these people.
The characters in this drama are, for the most part, well adjusted adults. They all have their shortcomings but no one is crazy. Each one goes through some significant character growth and that’s part of what makes us love them and cheer them on. One thing I really appreciated was witnessing an emotionally stable person get turned down by the person they loved. Yes, there were tears but this person handled it like an adult. Okay, they got smashed drunk and whined to a friend but they didn’t get angry and seek revenge. That was quite refreshing.
I can’t think of any dramas, right off hand, that deal with writing (the creative side of it, not journalism) so this show is unique in its subject matter. Because I enjoy writing so much I felt some kinship with these characters. In high school I was one of the editors of our school’s literary magazine, and even had some of my poetry published in it, so it was very easy for me to sympathize with Editor Bong Ji-Hong. There are so many diverse personalities in this story I’m sure you’ll find someone you can relate to – another reason this is such a comfortable drama.
Romance is a Bonus Book aired on cable TV and received a decent 8.177% viewer rating on its last episode, which is more than respectable.
In keeping with the book theme, this show’s episodes are all called volumes. I thought that was very clever. It also made me think of our lives as having volumes. What volume are you currently living?
I give the drama’s soundtrack a B-. The song A Story I Couldn’t See, performed by Jannabi, sounds like something Simon and Garfunkel would have made popular in the 1970s. Rothy sings Rainbow, a nice song with a soft rock kind of sound. A Book of You is a nice song, although I don’t think Son Ho-Young’s voice did it justice. SAya and Kim Ki-Won blend their voices in beautiful harmony in the song Happy End. SAya also solos another good song, the upbeat Walking On Sunshine.
Gyeoroo Publishing is the main background focus but Cha Eun-Ho’s house comes in a close second. I liked the fact that Eun-Ho was obviously stinkin’ rich but his home wasn’t a show-off mansion. One location in the drama I’ll never forget is the paper shredding plant. It was startling to see so many books being turned into recycled paper. I’m glad it’s used again but the thought of so many trees being killed for noting broke my heart. I’m sure that particular scene was in the show, partly to make us all think about that very thing.
Romance is a Bonus Book is a solid, entertaining, romantic Kdrama. In closing I’m going to borrow a line from this show to thank you for the support you give Heart & Seoul and let you know… “The moon is beautiful.”
Lee Jong-Suk and Lee Na-Young’s great chemistry
Good love story
Well adjusted, likable characters
Decent character growth
A few insignificant “oops”