I used to have a thing about “firsts”: first love, first dance, first kiss, first date, first everything. It was really a big deal to me, but eventually the beauty of all those first experiences waned through time… You know why? Because I also discovered the gift of second chances. Not all were blessed to do everything right the first time. And I think Romance is a Bonus Book was a great drama with an interesting storytelling of new beginnings.
This drama was marketed as Lee Na-young’s return to the small screen after nine years and Lee Jong-suk’s first romantic comedy. But honestly, it was more than that. It revolved around the story of a 37-year old unemployed divorcee who used to have so much potential in her career, but lost it altogether because she chose to be a mom. Kang Dan-i (Lee Na-young) was a popular copywriter in an ad agency but ended up quitting her job. After surviving a painful divorce, she is now a broke, jobless single mother, and literally homeless, too. Just as you thought the universe could not make her more miserable, she could not land herself a decent job despite her impressive career and educational background. Every single employer she applied to questioned her idle years of being a housewife. I hated to see her struggling to prove herself during job interviews. I hated to see that not even a single company took a chance on her. And because of her desperate situation, she was forced to lie about her education and previous career only to be hired as a temporary worker in a publishing company. In short, she became an errand girl.
In this publishing company, Cha Eun-ho (Lee Jong-suk) was the star. He was the editor-in-chief, and worked as a professor on the side. Little did everyone know, Eun-ho and Dan-i were really close childhood friends. They were super close to the point of Dan-i asking Eun-ho to let her stay in his house for a while. As the story progressed, we were introduced to their deep friendship history, and Eun-ho’s one-sided love all these years. The drama revolved around the evolution of their relationship from being really close friends to being head over heels about each other.
The drama also renewed the book lover in me. Since most of the story took place in the publishing office, it was refreshing to watch the dynamics within the teams whose jobs were to ensure we as consumers get the quality of books that we deserved. Aside from the characters, it was heartbreaking to see the reality of the unsold books being destroyed as a casualty of the digital age. We also got a glimpse of the creative process of making book covers to proofreading reams of draft materials. The show also depicted how politics arose before the book was even published, or how simple blunders could make or break the publishing team.
Interesting supporting characters also completed the mix of this light drama: the blossoming love between the content editor and the graphic artist, the strong and independent ahjummas who seemed to be at the peak of their careers but were just like everyone else in their respective personal struggles.
But again, the strength of the drama was Kang Dan-i. From the way she handled herself into starting over once more – her career, her love life, herself. She found a new purpose in her life, and proved to herself that even in the lowest of lows, there was always a silver lining. Kang Dan-i proved to us that it’s never wrong to start fresh, no matter how old you are or whatever phase in your life you are in right now. She rediscovered herself and improved a lot. Her fear of leaving her comfort zone and returning to the corporate world was replaced by a surprising gift of love not just from Eun-ho, but from her new found friends in the company. It’s never too late to correct your life, and maybe life would surprise you in return. Kang Dan-i allowed herself to love again, try again, and begin again.