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Romance is a Bonus Book [2019]


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Romance is a Bonus Book

 

 

Director: Lee Jeong Hyo
Writer: Jung Hyun Jung
Starring: Lee Na Young, Lee Jong Suk
Original Broadcast: January 26-March 17, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


BACKGROUND
A respected actress and a model considered one of the most beautiful women in Korea, Lee Na Young had filmed her last drama prior to this one in The Fugitive: Plan B with Rain in 2010. Since then, she had focused on doing a few films, taking time off to marry Won Bin who she had been dating for about 3 years prior, and giving birth to their son.


As a comeback drama after such a long hiatus, this role fit with her habit of choosing quirky, awkward heroines to play in projects that she felt a passion for.


Lee Jong Seok seems to have become a bit of a master of the noona romance, this being his third venture into the realm. His first was with Lee Bo Young where he managed to convince me (and other viewers) that despite all the issues with a large age gap that he was the right man to end up with the heroine. His next noona romance was Han Hyo Joo in W which swept the awards and won him a Grand Daesang for that year.


This drama was his last drama filmed prior to his military enlistment, where he is serving as a public service officer since he couldn’t serve as an active duty soldier as the result of injuries suffered in a car accident when he was 16.

 


SETUP AND REVIEW
There is a central romance and some secondary romances in this drama, but this drama is really a love letter to the beleagured book publishing industry. As such, it is predominantly set in a small, quirky publishing office, Gyeoroo Publishing, and its staff. (Gyeoroo Publishing btw can be translated to Competitive Publishing, meaning that it's still viable in the world.)


The central OTP romance involves Kang Dan Yi, a divorced, single mother with a child who is attending a boarding school Philippines, and Cha Eun Ho, a star writer and senior editor at Gyeoroo Publishing. Dan Yi and Eun Ho had been friends since she was in high school and he was in elementary school when DY saved EH from being hit by a car, but being hit herself which required extensive surgery and a long convalescence. During her convalescence, DY got EH to bring her numerous books to read and thus cultivated EH’s love for books as well. The two remained close until DY marries a selfish jerk, though she had second thoughts right up till she married him.


When the drama starts DY has gotten a divorce from her husband, but without any alimony or child support, she’s living in their old condemned house until its demolition while looking for a job. She had been a star in the marketing field before she quit to have a baby and have now been out of the workplace for many years. EH in the meantime has become a famous writer, and also started a small publishing company Gyeoroo Publishing with his publisher and others. It’s indicated that he dates, but does not stay long with any woman. EH had asked DY to find him a housekeeper and is not aware that DY is doing his housekeeping herself so that she can have the money. And when her old home is finally demolished, she moves into the attic and lives there until she’s caught by EH.


When EH realizes what’s happened, he moves her downstairs into her own room and tells DY to keep living with him. Things get more complicated when DY decides to apply to be a contract employee gofer at Gyeoroo Publishing. (A gofer is a person who basically does whatever other people need her to do.) While he has trepidations about this, Eun Ho and the other staff members who are not aware of DY and EH’s relationship are all pleased by how diligent DY is at her work, but also surprised at her eagerness and resourcefulness at other job roles.


EH has had a crush on DY since he as a child, and that is one of the reasons why he wasn’t able to be with another woman for long. DY has always like EH, but because of their age difference, had not given much thought to a romantic relationship with EH. Living and working together, she comes to realize how much EH means to her and has always meant to her.


The other romantic relationships in this drama are important as well as the OTP. There is a plot involving two other founders (another senior editor and a marketer) who are married to each other, but their marriage frays because of the stresses of their family as well as things being taken for granted. There is a plot involving the two interns who have a very push-pull relationship where the female intern who comes from a rich family and is pretty and well-groomed with a pushy mother and the male intern who is smart and hard working but does not come from family figure out what they could mean to each other. And, then there is the story of the chief operating officer of the company who let go of her chance at marriage a long time ago, and now has an unorthodox personal life whereas her professional persona is all efficient, hard-hearted, stickler-for-the-rules. There are the second leads, of course, who initially start off being interested in the OTP, but then realize the futility of their interest and find room to commiserate.


In addition to the romances, there are also stories about the struggles that the writers may go through, the lessons learned on the job, the question of why rules are established and when one should bend a rule before the rule possibly becomes nonsense. There is also a major subplot having to do with a very popular author who has mysteriously disappeared, and the curiosity that has roused in people.


And all of these stories are encompassed within the world of publishing books where the staff all love books. It takes the viewers through the different aspects of publishing, starting with the relationship between the writer and the editor, deciding which books should get published, the art for a book including the covers and any illustrations, the marketing done for the book, and even what happens to books that are not sold. This is a staff who care deeply for books and publishing their books, some of them approaching zealotry abut their desire to send these books out into the world. And yet, that passion is tempered by the knowledge that books are falling victim to an increasingly digital world.


While this is billed as a romantic drama, it also takes time for some light-hearted scenes as well, as with the antics of the Founders and their rituals as they decide by voting on some serious issues. Overall, though, the drama takes its time to build its various relationships and to show you what it wants to show you in a very deliberate, measured fashion, much as a good novel might do so. And, it manages to feel like a good book that you might curl up with as you wind down for the night or on a rainy weekend. The production values are very good, keeping things mostly on an intimate scale while not sacrificing the overall cinematic film. It watches like a good indie film might.


Each episode ends with a written epilogue that gives further insight into a character or situation. The prose for these epilogues are very beautiful and satisfying, though the subtitles tend to blunt them out to a few key points each. However, I believe fans of Lee Jong Seok have taken the trouble to translate these written epilogues and it may be worthwhile to try to seek them out if you end up watching this drama.


The acting is universally strong from every main and supporting characters.  As Lee Na Young’s return, she has an impressive turn as an ajumma who is feeling her way back into a job market that has changed while she had been at home. Her DY is smart, eager and curious, but also impulsive and makes mishaps in her eagerness. Lee Jong Seok turns in another charming role as Eun Ho who is finally getting a chance at the woman he loves but is awkward and nervous about it, and is also hiding a secret that he’s not sure how to resolve. The rest of the cast is equally strong. The drama does an impressive job of fleshing out pretty much every character the viewers meet, so that one feels sympathy even if one might not agree with their actions.


I really liked this drama and would recommend it. It may not have the action scenes, the makjang melodrama or any super villains, but it’s a drama where you come to care about the characters and are happy to spend time with them in their world. It also accomplished its goal of making me feel wistful that actual books are slowly disappearing from our shelves and our landscapes.

 

RATINGS
Plot/Story 10
Acting 10
Production 8
Re-watch Value 10

 

 

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Aww, so happy to see this! This is "a beautiful drama" 😉 And meaningful too. I especially love the camaraderie formed between the founders and the ladies, and most importantly everyone's love for books. I find it somewhat important as the new generation has turned towards electronic devices for reading. Lee Jong Seok had always been boyish in his previous dramas however he has shown lots of maturity in this one (and Hymn of Death).

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  • 1 year later...

@stroppyseI will read your review once I finished. I just pick this drama back. Long time ago I tried ep 1 but didn't like it, as the FL felt very gloomy in the beginning. But it started to getting better from ep 2. 

 

So far my favourite scene is when he get jealous during dinner with the book designer. He texted her in phone and argue by themself is so funny.

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And whoever give LJS that dark blue shirt, need a serious pay rise ! 

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9 hours ago, SilverMoonTea said:

Long time ago I tried ep 1 but didn't like it, as the FL felt very gloomy in the beginning. But it started to getting better from ep 2. 

 

I'm glad that you're giving this drama another try. I feel as if this drama is in a very small category of romantic dramas since it is such a thoughtful drama. I think the only other drama I've watched that gave me similar feels to this drama is the kdrama 'You Who Forgot Poetry'.

 

I agree that it has a slow start, but it does get better. I think some of it reflects the heroine's own journey in rediscovering the fearless version of herself albeit tempered by time and experience.

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9 hours ago, SilverMoonTea said:

And whoever give LJS that dark blue shirt, need a serious pay rise ! 

 

I agree LJS looked fantastic in this drama. :heart:

 

Btw, not sure if you watched Squid Game, but I think this drama may have been one of Wi Ha Joon's early acting roles. He's actually pretty cute and very sweet as well, though I never developed SLS.

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7 hours ago, stroppyse said:

 

I agree LJS looked fantastic in this drama. :heart:

 

Btw, not sure if you watched Squid Game, but I think this drama may have been one of Wi Ha Joon's early acting roles. He's actually pretty cute and very sweet as well, though I never developed SLS.

Omona he's the famous Wi Ha Joon! Hahaha.... I didn't watched SG, so it's my first time to see him 😂. Yes he's sweet & cute, I like him too. But no SLS developed either. I'm rooting for him with other girl, Hae Rin, Eun Ho's hoobae. 

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7 minutes ago, mademoiselle said:

@SilverMoonTea Wi Ha Joon played Son Ye Jin's brother in Something in the Rain and Matrimonial Chaos (which I remember you watched!). He's also in 18 Again (which you didn't watch). His character in Romance in a Bonus Book is definitely still my favourite.

Haha yeah I watched a bit of SITR and MC. But I can't remember at all any trace of him lols 😂 And I think his pairing with the golden retriever Geum Bi is just so cute ! 😍

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11 hours ago, SilverMoonTea said:

Haha yeah I watched a bit of SITR and MC. But I can't remember at all any trace of him lols 😂 And I think his pairing with the golden retriever Geum Bi is just so cute ! 😍

 

I don't remember MC, but I do remember him in SITR. He was a good brother, but it was a very, very small part.

 

I do really like his character in this drama, though. And, Geum Bi is just adorable! Maybe I didn't have SLS because I thought that his character was fine being paired up with Geum Bi, and he didn't really need the heroine???? :lmao2:

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