Romance Is A Bonus Book is a love letter to stories. Set in a fictional publishing house, it tells the story of Kang Dan-i, a divorced mother and ex-marketing executive in her 30s who finds herself unable to get a job now she’s trying to re-enter the workforce after leaving to take care of her daughter. After a year of failure, she removes any college education and work history from her resume, and gets a job as an assistant at Gyeoroo Publishing House. She’s determined that, with hard work, she will get back on the career ladder again.
And as for the romance part? Well, Kang Dan-i’s childhood friend Cha Eun-Ho just happens to be a successful author and the senior editor at Gyeoroo, and when he finds out how Kang Dan-i has been struggling, he invites her to live with him until she gets back on her feet. And, of course, he has been trying to ignore that he’s in love with her since forever.
Gyeoroo is very much a fantasy version of how publishing works, but it’s a fun setting to be in. Most of the story’s plotlines are driven by the ensemble cast of employees in this somewhat romanticised view of publishing, and the story’s main mystery centers on the sudden “retirement” of Cha Eun-Ho’s mentor, a famous author who gave over all his book rights to Gyeoroo and vanished without a trace a few years before.
At its heart, Romance is a Bonus Book is a story about the beauty and power of stories — the books that strike us, the lines that stay in our hearts, the sense of change and rediscovering when rereading something after a long time has passed. The production company partnered with Penguin Korea to provide the books and quotes and poems in the series, and the love of reading is clear in every moment of the show.
But Romance is a Bonus Book is also, somewhat surprisingly, a look at the injustice and discrimination that women face when attempting to re-enter the workforce. No matter how capable and talented and experienced Kang Dang-i is, no one is willing to consider hiring her as-is, and her struggles, including her eventual need to lie, are another central part of the story. It’s a cold world out there for a divorced stay-at-home mother desperately trying to restart her career and support her daughter, and the impossibility of Kang Dan-i’s situation is heartbreaking.
To be honest, I wasn’t all that invested in the main romance, but the ensemble cast are great to watch, each with their own struggles and stories, and the friendships, romances and work relationships between them are all compelling.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the series is without problems. One thing that stuck out to me was the story around the seemingly cold and ruthless head of marketing, Go Yoo-Sun, who once rejected a proposal and is now shown seriously missing something in life, despite her incredible success at work. Sigh.
But overall, Romance is a Bonus Book is an incredibly fun show. If you love both books and romcoms, you should definitely check it out.
Romance is a Bonus Book is available on Netflix.