The Fangirl Verdict

Completely biased reviews and fangirling

Review: Romance Is A Bonus Book

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THE SHORT VERDICT:

A noona romance that isn’t actually all about the romance, and yet, it works, and so well too.

While I don’t think that this would sit as well with a younger audience, I do feel like this would resonate well with a slightly older audience, particularly if said audience is female. Show takes the premise of a divorcee’s struggle to re-enter the workforce, and makes it come alive with poignance and heart, while managing to slip a charming noona romance in there, to sweeten the whole experience. A capable cast and a lovely OST round out this drama’s strengths, and I also wanted to say, Lee Na Young is extra incandescent to my eyes, as our female protagonist.

Not a show that would work for everyone, but if it works for you, it works so well. ❤

Romance is a Bonus Book OST – 나는 볼 수 없던 이야기

THE LONG VERDICT:

My friends. This is one of those times when my FOMO has served me well.

As you know, fairly often, because of Twitter buzz, I check out a show that I wasn’t planning on watching. Of course, this comes with varying results. Sometimes I find the show just ok, sometimes I like it quite well, and sometimes I end up loving it a whole lot.

I’m so pleased to tell you guys, that with this show, it was most definitely love. ❤

Originally, I was actually going to give this one a pass because while I loved Lee Jong Suk in School 2013 and I Hear Your Voice, I’d been rather disenchanted with him in W-Two Worlds, and I didn’t have any special interest in Lee Na Young, nor in book publishing specifically. That said, boy, am I glad that my Twitter pals gushed about this one enough to get me to check it out in spite of my initial disinterest.

This drama is charming in a way that I really dig. It’s thoughtfully written, with lots of heart and poignance, and just the occasional touch of whimsy. There were times when I would leave this show for a little bit coz of Real Life stuff, or because I was working on other reviews. Sometimes those pauses lasted days, and occasionally, they lasted weeks, even. With many dramas, if I’ve left off watching for a while, there’s a fair chance that my interest might have waned by the time I try to come back to it.

Not with this one, though.

Every time I came back to this one after taking a bit of a break, I would remember all over again why I liked this show, and why it worked for me so well. How lovely. So lovely, in fact, that eventually I got into the habit of watching this one slowly, just so that I could savor it extra.

THE BEST AUDIENCE FIT FOR THIS SHOW

Like I mentioned earlier, I don’t think this show would work for everyone.

In broad strokes, this story is about a divorcee mom finding her place in society again, with a sweet noona romance as a bonus. Additionally, in our side stories, Show also shines the spotlight on the struggles of women in various stations of society, like the older single career woman, or the working woman who has a young child to care for.

Basically, the more you are able to relate to these situations, the more this show will work for you.

I’m not myself a mom, let alone one who’s trying to make a career come-back after staying home for years looking after my child, but the main arc of this show resonates with me a great deal because one of my close friends has a similar struggle.

Which leads me to conclude that if you are having or have had a similar struggle as one of the arcs featured in this drama, or have been up-close-and-personal with a similar struggle through friends or family members, then there’s a good chance this show would work for you.

Oh, and bonus points if you like thoughtful, lyrical things, coz that is exactly how Show vibes.

OVERALL WRITING & EXECUTION

Like I mentioned, the writing in Show leans thoughtful and lyrical, which is something I enjoyed very much.

Show’s thoughtfulness

Writer-nim clearly put a lot of thought into understanding her characters and into plotting her story. Consistently, I felt like despite Show’s occasional whimsical quality, that the characters felt real and down-to-earth at the heart of it, and I could understand why characters might feel the way they did, or act the way they did.

At the same time, I very much appreciated the feeling that I got, that writer-nim put thought and effort into mapping out her story, so that we don’t get connect-the-dots type writing that we sometimes get in Dramaland.

[SPOILER ALERT]

There are 2 great examples of this in episode 11.

1. I’m impressed that Show manages to make a meaningful statement about women in the workforce, with Manager Seo (Kim Sun Young) being all torn up about having to lie when a family or child related thing keeps her from work, and actually using it as a springboard to lead us into an opportunity for Dan Yi (Lee Na Young) to shine as the host of the book concert. That was really nicely done, and felt organic too.

2. Another example of writer-nim planning ahead, is how Director Ko’s (Kim Yoo Mi) friend turns out to be the interviewer who had told Dan Yi off in the washroom in a much earlier episode, about trying to come back to the workforce.

[END SPOILER]

Show’s whimsy

There’s an entire musical sequence in episode 1 that is used to express the details of Dan Yi’s struggle to find a job. I found it odd, but ok, in the sense that while I didn’t love it, it didn’t make me want to stop watching either, and that’s something. (The last musical sequence I watched was in Dream High 2 and that did make me want to stop watching, ha.) What I’m trying to say is, Show’s brand of whimsy was one that I could jive with.

Show’s attitude towards angst

Another bonus, I found, is that Show doesn’t angst out for too long. Whenever our story took an angsty turn, it wasn’t ever too angsty, nor did it ever drag on for longer than needed. I felt this made a big difference to Show’s overall tone, which I liked.

Show’s focus

Many rom-coms use their premise as an excuse for romance, which is the Main Event, and the reason the shows exist to begin with. Not this show. Just as Show states in its title, romance really is a bonus in this story.

It was at the episode 13 mark that it suddenly came into focus for me. The romance in this story, while a strong presence, really is a bonus. [VAGUE SPOILERS] This episode focused so deeply on Dan Yi and her predicament, and how much her job means to her, and how much she wants to keep it, and how heartbroken she is when she leaves it, that it just hit it home for me. [END SPOILERS] I suddenly realized this really and truly is a story of Dan Yi’s journey, and the fact that she’s being romanced by Eun Ho is just part of the journey, and not the journey itself. I found that refreshing.

The bonus pages

At the end of every episode, we are treated to what I like to call bonus pages. We see stills of our characters that transition much like pages, and on each “page,” there are little extra remarks sprinkled in “print,” which provide lovely nuggets of insight into our key characters Eun Ho (Lee Jong Suk) and Dan Yi. How they feel about each other at various specific points; how they feel in general; how they feel in relation to the world around them. Often, these are unspoken thoughts that we don’t have access to otherwise, and the sentiments are always thoughtful and appreciative, whether of each other, or of life.

I loved these, so much. I feel like they added a softly poetic, honest touch to every episode. I only wish they didn’t flash by so quickly – I literally paused the video just to be sure that I didn’t miss them. So lovely. ❤

Show’s OST

For the record, I really enjoyed the music in this show. There’s a somewhat eclectic mix of sounds, with some songs that sound thoughtful and poignant, and others that sound breezy and cheery. I enjoyed ’em all, and I thought they were well employed in service of amplifying the watch experience.

MY TAKE ON SHOW’S INITIAL EPISODES [VAGUE MINOR-ISH SPOILERS]

I’ve heard some rumblings about viewers not liking the initial episodes all that much, mainly because of just how bad Dan Yi has it, in this early stretch. It seems that anything that could go wrong in her life, does go wrong, and this made Show feel hard to watch, at least for some folks.

I personally didn’t have a problem with this early stretch, not because I’m cruel that way, but because of the surreal quality that Show possesses. It all didn’t feel so terrible to me because Show makes the whole thing feel a bit fantastical, almost. If this had been a gritty drama, that all would’ve probably landed very differently for me. But in this slightly surreal drama world with a strong rom-com branding, I already had the assurance that Dan Yi would be just fine, and that made the world of difference.

Whichever way you lean on this point, the happy thing is, things start looking up soon after.

CHARACTER SPOTLIGHT

By the end of my watch, I found that I enjoyed pretty much every character in this drama world. But because I’m too intimidated to actually do a breakdown of every single character in this drama, here’s the spotlight on our key players.

1. Lee Jong Suk as Eun Ho

Like I mentioned earlier, because I hadn’t enjoyed Lee Jong Suk much in W, I’d been rather leery of being disappointed with his outing in this drama as well. I’m so happy to say that my fears were completely unfounded. I found Lee Jong Suk well cast as Eun Ho, and I very much enjoyed his delivery of Eun Ho as a character.

Even though Eun Ho has his petty and prickly tendencies, he largely comes across as a very warm, thoughtful person, and I liked that a lot. Instead of large romantic gestures, we tend to see Eun Ho demonstrating affection and care in the little things, and this, not only limited to his loveline with Dan Yi either. Eun Ho is fiercely loyal to the people that he cares about, and consistently strives to do right by them. I liked that about him a lot.

Because this drama is mainly Dan Yi’s story, Eun Ho’s character development falls on the more muted end of the scale. Nonetheless, I did find his journey meaningful and worthwhile. Here’s a sprinkling of my observations of Eun Ho, as I watched.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. Eun Ho’s disenchantment with love because of Dan Yi’s experience, is rather extreme. But, I guess this speaks to just how fiercely he feels, on behalf of those that he loves.

E2. Eun Ho’s quiet concern for Dan Yi appeals to me. Yes, I dislike how he refused to believe her at first, even when she was telling the truth, and how he insisted that she was lying and just throwing a tantrum, and how he wanted to call her husband and take her home to him. That felt unnecessarily distrustful. But I do take the point that he possibly was in denial that she might be in real trouble. On the upside, I do like how he thinks of helping her out with new clothes and new hair for her new job.

E3. Eun Ho going to the trouble of making a bedroom for Dan Yi, is very melty stuff. I mean, he even got pictures to decorate the space, which is totally unnecessary. He sure doesn’t believe in doing a job only halfway decent.

E3. The way that Eun Ho can’t help smiling to himself, as he sees Dan Yi engrossed in coming up with ideas for the blurb, is melty to me. I love so much, that he likes seeing her work to excel at something she loves. Flail.

E4. Can’t lie; I was quite pleased when Eun Ho marched into Dong Min’s (Oh Ui Shik) restaurant and took him to task for what he did to Dan Yi. Yes, he probably shouldn’t be beating up someone, but Dong Min deserved it for lying, and for not paying child support, and I’m pleased that Eun Ho’s making sure that Dong Min’s going to alleviate the financial burden on Dan Yi at least, in bringing up their child.

E6. It’s cute how flustered Eun Ho gets about Dan Yi being chummy with Seo Joon (Wi Ha Joon). He feels a lot less special when she explains him away as “some kid brother she knows.” Aw. And, hee.

E7. I appreciate that Eun Ho has petty desires to block Seo Joon from making contact with Dan Yi, but he tamps them down because he wants to do the right thing. And one of the things that he tells himself, is that it’s true that Dan Yi likes Seo Joon too, and that he shouldn’t be uncool or lame about this. Of course, it doesn’t stop him from being a little petty and a little lame, with the multiple texts about made-up problems, and the momentary hiding of Seo Joon’s gift. But, he consistently comes around to do the right thing, and I appreciate that about him. I love that he understands that love does not equal possession.

E9. Eun Ho breaking down in heaving sobs at seeing Writer Kang (Lee Ho Jae) all scratched up and bound, is really heartrending. Even though I don’t yet understand the arc around Writer Kang, I can feel Eun Ho’s pain, and his sense of helplessness, and my heart goes out to him.

[END SPOILERS]

Romance is a Bonus Book OST – You’re Beautiful

2. Lee Na Young as Dan Yi

I really, really enjoyed Lee Na Young as Dan Yi, and I also really liked Dan Yi as a character.

Even though Dan Yi’s been dealt more than a few blows in her life, I really appreciate that she doesn’t allow it to destroy her spirit. Instead of becoming hard and jaded by the hardships that she’s faced in life, she continues to keep her heart earnest, open and tender, which is such a precious thing that it’s perhaps my favorite thing about her.

Another thing I love about Dan Yi, is how consciously grateful she is, for the opportunities that she does have. I feel like she’s often just grateful to be alive, and to have the chance to work towards something bigger and better.

The thing is, these aren’t exactly things that are hardwired into Dan Yi; these are conscious choices that she makes, to be hardworking, to be open, and to be grateful. These are choices that we can make too, and I often found Dan Yi’s response to her environment uplifting and inspiring.

It didn’t take very long at all, before I found myself firmly rooting for Dan Yi to have all of the good and happy things in life. I just liked her that much. Kudos to Lee Na Young for making Dan Yi feel so real, in all her quiet quirkiness.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Because Dan Yi really is the heart of this show, I feel like Show spends a lot of time unpacking Dan Yi as a character, and showing us layers of her personality and growth. I enjoyed Dan Yi so much, that it resulted in a quite a few thoughts. Here’s a bit of a breakdown.

E1.  I do appreciate that Dan Yi works to solve things on her own, as far as she can. Yes, she takes it too far by sleeping in a house that’s about to be demolished, and lying to her friend and squatting in his house without his knowledge. But that streak of wanting to be independent, and not wanting to be a burden to anyone, appeals to me.

I also appreciate her constant decision to keep looking forward to new possibilities, instead of wallowing in her sad situation. When she literally has just been kicked out of a house about to be demolished, she parks her things at the bus-stop, brushes her teeth, and pep-talks herself about going to the interview. I like that too.

E2. I am most interested in Dan Yi’s experiences as she rejoins society as a contract worker. Her tearful joy at getting accepted for a contract position paying much less than she used to earn; her grateful acceptance of said job, while other applicants who received full-time positions gripe about nitty-gritty details; her empathetic letter to herself, apologizing for letting her past self suffer and feel small, and promising to find out more about herself and resolving to be happy; her quiet humility even as she goes to her first day of work; her bright resolve to do well in her new workplace; her wonder and pride at her new name card. It all touches me, somehow.

I only dislike the way she sneaks around Eun Ho’s house while lying to him. I mean, she’s taking refuge in his house and eating his food; it feels like adding insult to injury, to lie about it too.

E3. Aside from her not being truthful with Eun Ho, I like Dan Yi’s attitude. Like when she looks upon the executive meeting that she worked to prepare, and which she had to vacate the meeting room for, she doesn’t bear a trace of a grudge. She understands that these people have worked hard to get to where they are, just like she’s worked hard in her own situation. She isn’t angry or jealous; she accepts it matter-of-factly, and I like that.

E3. You gotta love Dan Yi’s attitude. Yes, she was quick to get angry when she thought Eun Ho had moved her stuff out, but once she realized he’d made a proper bedroom for her, she apologizes and thanks him – albeit with a bit of prodding. What I like about her attitude, though, is that she is determined to be independent and not leech off Eun Ho. He’s clearly telling her that he’s happy that she’s there, and that he wouldn’t mind her staying longer, but she doesn’t take advantage of that, even though doing so would make her life easier. She’s choosing to do the independent thing, even though it will be hard, and I have to admire her for that.

E3. Aw, I love that Dan Yi gets excited at the very thought of coming up with an idea for the advertising blurb. She really is passionate about marketing, and I love that.

E3. It’s a small moment, but it’s so poignant to see Dan Yi savoring the fact that people now address her by her name, rather than all the other forms of address she had as a married woman with a child. It does reflect the loss of identity that women struggle with, as they go through life.

E4. Dan Yi being so matter-of-fact with Eun Ho about not having had sex in a long time is so unusual for a kdrama female lead. She’s refreshing, that way.

E5. I really enjoy watching Dan Yi be so earnest about her job. She refuses to allow herself to get discouraged, and works hard, pouring her passion into the task at hand. I cheer for her with every milestone she crosses.

E5. So much about Dan Yi is so heartfelt and earnest. It’s because she delves into the book with her whole heart, and shares her own struggles and fears with an open heart, that she gets through to the nervous first-time author. I like that.

E6. The thing that strikes me most this hour, is how Dan Yi picks herself up after a disappointment at work. She’s worked really hard to even get people to consider her idea, and then to move the idea into fruition. And now that the book is doing well, not only has her name been taken off it, everyone at the company seems to have forgotten that she ever contributed the idea to begin with.

And yet, through her tears, she bears down and chooses to be strong, because she wants to be a good mom. She is so unbelievably resilient, because she’s a mom. That’s what moms do. I’m quite deeply moved by this. The way Dan Yi holds back her tears during the video call with her daughter almost brought me to tears.

E6. I admire Dan Yi for readjusting her attitude and for wanting to keep trying, even though she’s been disappointed this time. I admire her even more, for speaking with Director Ko about it. There’s something so admirable about not being fazed, and wanting to continue to do well and grow and learn, even when speaking with the one who most seems to want to wither you.

E9. I’m happy for Dan Yi every time she makes headway at work and gets recognized or praised for something. The fact that her idea for the powerpoint blurbs has triggered demand for a book enough to get it reprinted, is fantastic, and she deserves to bask in that praise and affirmation. I smiled when she did her victory dance, and I’d love for her to have many more reasons to break out her dancing shoes.

E11. Dan Yi does wonderfully well hosting the book concert at the last minute, and as with every other time that she does well, I felt so proud of her. I felt the way Eun Ho looked, all beaming and pleased and proud.

E13. While it makes me sad to see Dan Yi struggle, I do admire her for choosing to own her problem. She takes the decision out of Eun Ho’s hands and goes to speak with CEO Kim (Kim Tae Woo), to plead her own case, even while admitting that she knows that it’s her fault. She pleads her case with so much heartfelt eloquence, that I feel the tears that are brimming in her eyes.

E13. That moment when Dan Yi lets herself into a bathroom stall and just cries, is so heartbreaking. She cries quietly, but it’s just so raw. I can literally feel her pain through my screen. Oof.

[END SPOILER]

Special shout-outs:

1. Wi Ha Joon as Seo Joon

I’d only ever seen Wi Ha Joon as the disapproving younger brother in Something In The Rain, so seeing him all cute and charming here was a lovely surprise.

Seo Joon isn’t a super deeply developed character, but I enjoyed him very well as our second lead, and found his earnest, sincere courtship of Dan Yi very endearing, if ultimately futile.

Show hints at Seo Joon having a possible dark side, but happily, this turns out to be more smoke than actual fire, and I was able to keep on liking Seo Joon for the decent, wholesome guy that he is.

2. Jung Yoo Jin as Hae Rin

I’ve seen Jung Yoo Jin in quite a few shows (like Thirty But Seventeen, Something In The Rain, and W), but I must say that I found her the most endearing and likable in this one.

Thanks in part to writer-nim’s crafting of the character, and thanks in part to Jung Yoo Jin’s excellent delivery, I found Hae Rin to be a character that felt very real, in all of her flaws, foibles and winsome quirks.

From her strong passion for crafting books and bringing them to life, to her crush on Eun Ho, to her sincere desire to be friends with Dan Yi, I found myself liking Hae Rin more and more, as I got deeper into my watch.

[SPOILER] One of my favorite Hae Rin moments is in episode 10. Hae Rin is so sad-cute, the way she rants at her parents for always feeding her the dumplings that are too ugly to sell, complaining that that’s why she keeps getting rejected by guys. When her parents make a big show of being up in arms over Eun Ho rejecting her, and promise to punish him, and promise to always give her only perfect dumplings henceforth, it’s so endearing, how Hae Rin tearfully eats the broken dumpling anyway, mumbling through her tears that they still taste good. Aw. Sweet girl. [END SPOILER]

STUFF I LIKED

Before I get into the relationship spotlights, here are several things that I really enjoyed in this show, that I wanted to highlight.

1. The spotlight on women’s struggles

Show does a really good job of casting a sobering spotlight on the predicament of women in Korean society.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Dan Yi’s struggle against impossible odds to have a second shot at a productive career is so poignant. No one will hire her at the level that she was when she first left the workforce, but no one will hire her at entry level either, given her qualifications. And then in episode 13, when it’s discovered that she’s lied on her resume, she is let go from her job for lying. There’s just no way in.

And for Manager Seo, who chooses to be a working mum, she, too, is continually stuck between a rock and a hard place. Society basically expects you to work as if you don’t have a child, but raise your child as if you don’t have to work. And the only other option is to be a stay-at-home mum. But how many families can afford that arrangement, with the skyrocketing costs of raising a child? And what of women like Manager Seo, who are divorced and therefore have no option to be a stay-at-home mum?

And then there’s Director Ko, who chose neither marriage nor children, in order to focus on her career. Yet, she’s quietly disdained for being the pathetic eternal single.

None of these women win, in the end, and that’s so poignant and real and raw.

The mini arc in episode 8 of Dan Yi going to the club with Manager Seo and Director Ko is played for comedy at first, but that scene of all three of them crying together in Director Ko’s apartment tugs at my heartstrings. This is such a statement about how it’s never perfect or easy, whatever your station happens to be. If you’re single, there are hardships, and if you’re married, it’s hard too – and you could possibly get divorced, which is hard too. I appreciated that sentiment and that statement, even as my heart went out to these women.

[END SPOILER]

2. The focus on female friendships

Show gives more focus and time to friendships between women than the average kdrama, and I liked that a lot.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Hae Rin & Dan Yi

I really enjoyed the growing friendship between Hae Rin and Dan Yi. The way they connect over the shared project in episode 5, and enjoy bouncing ideas off each other, and then celebrate together, is really nice to see. The way Dan Yi kept Hae Rin’s soju stash hidden for her in episode 9, and the sparkle in Hae Rin’s eyes, as she thanks Dan Yi profusely, is sweet and heartwarming as well.

Best of all, this doesn’t all go to pot, when Hae Rin realizes that Eun Ho has feelings for Dan Yi. I love that Hae Rin manages to appreciate Dan Yi as a person, regardless of Dan Yi becoming her long-time crush’s girlfriend. Yes, it does take Hae Rin a while to process and adjust, but her continued friendship with Dan Yi is really one of the sweetest things in this drama world.

Manager Seo & Dan Yi

I love how Manager Seo is so supportive of Dan Yi. There’s no suspicion or jealousy; she just celebrates Dan Yi’s efforts with warmth, which I very much appreciate. I love that in episode 9, after they’ve clubbed together, and cried their hearts out together, nothing as trivial as an office environment is going to get in the way of Manager Seo treating Dan Yi as a friend. Aw.

I also found it very sweet, how Manager Seo and Dan Yi want to be there for Director Ko in episode 11, even though she declines.

[END SPOILER]

3. The Gyeoroo Gang

I must say, I didn’t expect the office gang at Gyeoroo to grow on me as much as they did. I love that they are all so quirky, and so passionate and earnest about making books. There’s so much heart in what they do, and there’s also so much heart in how they regard and treat one another. These people are, in effect, so much more than colleagues. They are family – soulmates, almost, in their shared passion – and they just belong together.

I grew to really enjoy the office scenes, and I was genuinely wistful to get to the end of this show, partly because I wouldn’t get to see this gang of passionate quirks together anymore.

Romance is a Bonus Book OST – 레인보우 (Rainbow)

RELATIONSHIP SPOTLIGHT

1. Dan Yi & Eun Ho

As I alluded to earlier in this review, the romance between our OTP isn’t actually this story’s Main Event. While this might be a downside for viewers who are looking for a show which is all about the romance, I actually found this to be a plus point.

Because most k-romcoms revolve almost exclusively around the OTP relationship, I found it different and quite refreshing, that the developments in this OTP relationship are treated with a touch that feels lyrical yet possesses lashings of matter-of-fact-ness.

The thoughts that we hear Dan Yi and Eun Ho think about each other tend to be poetic and lyrical, but the actual OTP milestones, like kisses, the confirmation of their relationship status, and eventually, even  the consummation of the relationship, are all treated with a distinct lack of fanfare. We can see that it’s meaningful to our characters, but it’s not a hyped up dramatic moment of screen time. Instead, the focus is on Dan Yi’s journey, and Eun Ho’s role is basically to support her through it. How refreshing, to have a woman’s personal journey outside of romance be treated with primary importance.

In the same way that Show is warm, thoughtful and cozy, yet manages to feel fresh, the relationship between Eun Ho and Dan Yi also feels cozy and familiar, thanks to their many years of shared friendship prior, and yet, there’s that tantalizing new thing between them that’s starting to grow, like a fresh shoot in an earthy garden. I really liked that.

Also, I felt like the chemistry between Lee Jong Suk and Lee Na Young hit that perfect note of cozy familiarity quite wonderfully. From comfortable conversations, to easy skinship, to the simple complete ease of being around each other, they made our OTP connection feel deep, organically grown and very, very real.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Even though the OTP relationship isn’t Show’s primary focus, Show manages to serve up lots of meaty goodness around this OTP, which I very much enjoyed. Here’s a slightly sprawling look at all of my OTP-related thoughts.

E4. The little details – Dan Yi knowing exactly what Eun Ho would forget, after a shower – tell us so clearly, that these two know each other really well, that their relationship is born of many years of being together.

E4. I like how Eun Ho and Dan Yi tell each other this episode, that they only really need each other. Maybe not in so many words, but when Dan Yi articulates that she just needs one person who really knows her and understands her, Eun Ho springs to make the claim that that’s him, and she concedes. His little happy victory dance afterwards is very cute and very bonus. And then later, he tells her the same, that all he needs is her, because she knows him and understands him, and will believe in him, even when the world turns against him. That’s very sweet. ❤

E5. I very much enjoy the vibe between Eun Ho and Dan Yi. Their relationship is not romantic yet, but they are so at ease with each other that they’d happily hold hands while walking along the street. I like that a lot.

E8. Right on cue, at episode 8, we have OTP movement. Lol. That’s on the predictable side of things, but I appreciate how this show does it. When we get to the moment of blossoming hyperawareness on Dan Yi’s side, it feels fresh and sudden, yet almost overdue, certainly ripe for the picking, because this has been brewing on Eun Ho’s side for a long time now.

It’s completely believable that she would simply rest her head on his shoulder because she was tired, without telling him first. And because Eun Ho’s been grappling with the entrance of Seo Joon in Dan Yi’s life and the jealousy that comes with, I can believe that this would come together to galvanize him into action, when the moment presented itself. He’s been yearning to be more to her than just a brother or friend, and I can perfectly understand why he would want to trace her features with his hand, why he would lean in and almost kiss her. That was a lovely moment, equal parts warm-cozy and heady-melty.

I like that this encounter triggers Dan Yi to finally start questioning whether Eun Ho likes her, even though she thinks at first that it was possibly a dream. That, combined with the layered meaning of the phrasing that Eun Ho uses, about the snow being beautiful, makes it easy, almost, for Eun Ho to tell Dan Yi that he loves her, without actually telling her. I kinda love that, because this is fruit of their relationship. It’s precisely because they’ve spent so much time together, that they have arrived at a shared vernacular. I like that a lot.

E9. I’m not too hot on Show switching out Eun Ho’s reaction to Dan Yi’s question about whether he likes her, but, I do like that Show’s been sprinkling ambiguous “I might like you” statements by Eun Ho throughout. It makes it possible to believe that Dan Yi would miss the cues, because the statements were made in a teasing manner. But once she switches her lens to look back on them all, they stack really nicely to make a case for Eun Ho having real feelings for her. This feels refreshingly organic, and I like it a lot.

E9. The hyper-proximity with Eun Ho at the jewelry store is extra delicious now, compared to previous instances, because now Dan Yi is beginning to be hyper-aware of Eun Ho, and that makes all the difference. So much heady tension.

E10. Dan Yi’s preoccupation with Eun Ho this episode is very telling. She cares about him, and she won’t even offer Seo Joon a band aid because she’s very aware of how Eun Ho might feel, and she doesn’t want to hurt him.

E10. The way Dan Yi races home when she sees Eun Ho’s text that he’s home is really sweet. She isn’t sure whether she feels romantically about him, but this transcends all that. She’s just excited that Eun Ho’s home, and that feels pure and untainted and sweet.

E10. There’s a cozy gentleness about Eun Ho, as he looks at Dan Yi and talks to her, now that he’s weakened from the fever. There’s also a boldness mixed in there, where he throws caution to the wind and grabs her hand, and cites his fever to get a pass whenever she protests. It’s kinda great. I like gentle cozy bold Eun Ho.

E10. I really like the lead-up to the kiss. It’s not a grand gesture scored by a big love anthem, which I appreciate. In keeping with Show’s thoughtful tone, Eun Ho actually explains himself, albeit in a vague manner, before he leans in to kiss Dan Yi.

Propelled by his glee and satisfaction that Dan Yi withheld the band aid from Seo Joon even though she knew that she had them in her bag, he tells her that there are just some days that you can’t hold back; that most days, you tell yourself to just endure it and hold back, but on a day like today, you just.. can’t. And he leans quickly, but pauses, before he plants a kiss on her lips that feels both intent yet gentle; fast, in how long his lips stay on hers, but slow, in the way his lips move on hers. It’s sensuous, yet matter-of-fact, and I dig it.

E11. I agree with Eun Ho. Even though he and Dan Yi are just cleaning the house, they manage to have fun together, and there’s just an easy, cozy vibe between them. They were domesticity together well.

E11. Eun Ho stopping to listen in on the office gossip, that Dan Yi was overheard in the bathroom telling herself over and over that the kiss didn’t mean anything, and she shouldn’t be bothered, then being pleased and smiling to himself, is evidence that Eun Ho really knows Dan Yi, and he can tell that this is her in denial. Cute.

E11. Eun Ho being almost flippantly matter-of-fact about his feelings for Dan Yi, and confronting her with it in smallish, half-teasing ways, is just the right amount of pushy, I think. If he doesn’t push at all, I think it’s quite possible that Dan Yi will never confront her own feelings for him. But if he’s too pushy, it’ll likely come across as obnoxious and push her away. This is good-natured and teasing, and just enough, to make Dan Yi unable to forget or ignore that he likes her as a woman. I rather like that.

E12. I love the little beat of Eun Ho and Dan Yi holding hands as they walk in the park, not letting go even while buying buns from a vendor, preferring to juggle the task between their respective free hands instead. That’s so cozy and familiar, and this, even while Eun Ho’s confessed feelings hang in the air between them. I love that they feel comfortable enough to continue holding hands, even before they’ve sorted out Dan Yi’s response to Eun Ho’s confession.

E12. I love the little impromptu date that Eun Ho and Dan Yi go on, with dinner at a nice restaurant followed by a movie. More than the date itself, it’s how they interact with each other that gives me a thrill. That new and exciting burgeoning romance, couched in a context that’s so familiar and comfortable and cozy, just really appeals to me. I love that even though this is the beginning of something new for them, that Dan Yi is comfortable enough with Eun Ho to tell him that she likes holding hands with him, and that she likes the way he kisses the back of her hand, and even that she’d liked the kiss from before too. I love that all she is, is a little bashful, and he’s all accepting and smiley about it. Augh. I love it so.

E14. Eun Ho just knowing in his gut, that Dan Yi would stay by him and hold his hand, even when she found out his secret about Writer Kang, is truly lovely. He has complete faith in the fact that Dan Yi has complete faith in him. Augh. I love that.

[END SPOILER]

2. Seo Joon’s connection with Dan Yi

I’m aware that this side of the love triangle didn’t appeal to everyone, but I actually found this sweet and endearing in its own way.

I found Dan Yi’s burgeoning friendship with Seo Joon cute, with them deciding to be neighborhood friends, with Seo Joon then developing an interest to take things further than just being neighborhood acquaintances.

[SPOILER ALERT]

I really liked the idea that Seo Joon seems to genuinely like Dan Yi for who she is, even before he knew her name or where she worked or who she lived with. I like how that feels pure and sincere. I like that he’s not letting age or the awkward stare-downs with Eun Ho get in the way; he goes ahead and puts it out there in episode 6, that he’s interested in Dan Yi. I dig that he’s so unabashedly frank about it.

In episode 7, I was very amused by Seo Joon’s comical reactions to Dan Yi’s various confessions: about being divorced, about having a kid, and about her age. Beyond that, I felt fondly sorry for Seo Joon, as he anguished over why his body would react that way, in that moment. Poor guy.

At the same time, I admire Dan Yi for making things clear with Seo Joon right from the beginning, once he’s expressed a little bit of romantic interest. Even though there was always a chance that her admission would nix her chances with the new handsome young man, she tells him anyway, so that she won’t lead him on. That’s very honorable of her. A lesser, more selfish woman would have allowed the misconception to continue, to allow the relationship to grow. I admire Dan Yi for being proactive and candid, even though the odds are against her.

I also appreciate that Seo Joon comes back to seek Dan Yi out, even though he’s terribly embarrassed and doesn’t know what to say. And the way his face lights up when she does come out of the house, says everything. He’s happy to see her, he’s happy that she’s not rejecting him, and it’s just lovely to witness.

I like the fact that Seo Joon is prepared to keep on asking to see Dan Yi, even if she rejects him. I also like his approach, of taking things slow and easy with Dan Yi, under the assumption that she’s the one who might feel uncomfortable with their age difference. It’s also pretty cute that he would pretend that he needs to go to the office, just so that he can take the bus with Dan Yi in the mornings and evenings, and spend some time with her that way. His warm smile and his glad expression every time he sees her, makes this whole thing very endearing to my eyes, instead of creepy.

Eventually, the way Dan Yi lets Seo Joon know that it’s the end of the road for them in episode 11, is really gentle, and she frames it so cordially too. More than that, I like how Seo Joon responds. He’s completely understanding and respectful, and then frames it as maybe folding the corner on this page, so they can possibly return to it and continue where they left off, if she desires. I thought was a nice way of keeping their options open, without pressuring Dan Yi.

Overall, I really enjoyed this little almost-loveline, for its sincerity, earnestness, and clear mutual respect.

[END SPOILER]

3. Hae Rin’s crush on Eun Ho

To be honest, I didn’t enjoy Hae Rin’s crush on Eun Ho as much as I enjoyed Seo Joon’s crush on Dan Yi, but I did appreciate the general way that Hae Rin’s feelings are teased out. I found it organic and believable, that she would crush on the sunbae who’d been such a big influence on her, and I found the way she tried to confess her feelings nicely in character as well.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Here, I wanted to shine the spotlight on just 2 aspects of this little arc.

1. How she notices him

I found it very believable that Hae Rin would be so in tune with the nuances in Eun Ho’s expression, that she would notice immediately, when any traces of differences show up. In episode 6, Hae Rin notices right away, when Eun Ho lets down his guard around Dan Yi, even if just for a crack. She can tell that he’s relaxed around Dan Yi, and she can also tell, when he stiffens when Dan Yi receives a phone call from someone else. The way Hae Rin angsts over this feels really relatable, I felt.

2. How he lets her know his response

I did come across some viewer comments that the way Eun Ho lets Hae Rin know his answer to her confession in episode 9 is really sweet. As in, he gives Hae Rin space to read his letter by retreating to the kitchen, while watching over her to make sure she’s ok. I.. don’t know how I feel about that. Giving someone space while watching over them isn’t the same as giving them privacy, and if I were in Hae Rin’s shoes, getting rejected by the man whom I’d confessed my love to multiple times, I’d want to have the assurance that no one would see my reaction, my pain and my tears.

In actuality, I felt that Eun Ho’s actions in this instance, are really sweet on the surface, but also, really quite cruel, in a way. I mean, his words are really kind, and he even acknowledges that her feelings for him are beautiful and precious. For the record, I like the content of his letter. My beef is that he basically tricks her into finding his letter, and then puts her on the spot by trapping her into reading it in his house. If I were in Hae Rin’s shoes, I’d want to read that letter in private, so that no one would see the inevitable tears that would flow. That didn’t seem very considerate to me, and this did bother me somewhat.

However, I do very much appreciate how Hae Rin refuses to let this taint her friendship with Eun Ho or with Dan Yi. I liked that a lot.

[END SPOILER]

4. Seo Joon’s simmering potential loveline with Hae Rin

The more Show gave Seo Joon and Hae Rin time to spend together, the more intrigued I became, for the potential of a loveline between them.

[MINOR SPOILERS]

I love how these two people connect in a pretty solid way, and even have similar interests in and out of work (creating books, and visiting art exhibitions). Their little teasing interaction in episode 9, when Hae Rin tries to get him to sign a contract for 10 books was cute, and I immediately looked forward to seeing more cute coming out of these two being together.

I thought the scene of them falling asleep together at the cafe in episode 11 was really cute as well. They are so perfect for each other, and the subsequent scenes of them at the printing press, looking at the finished book, is a perfect example of how much they are in sync.

I am very pleased with where we eventually leave these two, which I’ll talk more about later in this review.

[END SPOILERS]

Special shout-outs:

1. Manager Bong and Manager Seo [SPOILERS]

I feel like Show’s special earthy, hopeful touch is arguably most evident in how it treats the relationship between Manager Bong (Jo Han Chul) and Manager Seo.

Show doesn’t sugarcoat their divorce nor the reason that their marriage broke down over the years; in that sense, it feels painfully true to life. At the same time, I like how there’s a sweet pathos in the lingering loyalty between them. The scene in episode 7, of Manager Seo defending her ex-husband to CEO Kim is so poignant. She has divorced him and is currently ignoring him, but she won’t let someone else put him down. She still knows he’s a good man. That’s so bittersweet, with a perfect balance between the bitter and the sweet.

I also felt genuinely satisfied at where we leave this pair, which I’ll talk more about later as well.

2. The burgeoning loveline between Park Hoon and Ji Yul

The side loveline between Ji Yul and Park Hoon (Park Gyu Young and Kang Ki Doong) is more comic relief than anything else, but I did find them suitably silly and amusing.

[SPOILER] In particular, I thought the scene in episode 7, of Ji Yul’s mom (Choi Eun Kyung) barging into Park Hoon’s house especially hilarious. It’s such a great twist on the classic quaking-before-a-chaebol-mom scene. He basically turns around and threatens to run away with Ji Yul, if Mom continues to behave like this – while pleading with her to just take off her shoes in his house. Pwahaha! Hilarious. [END SPOILER]

To Show’s credit, I found that I grew more and more fond of this ridiculous pair, the deeper I got into my watch.

Romance is a Bonus Book OST – Happy End

STUFF THAT WORKED OUT TO NEUTRAL

I didn’t end up actually disliking anything in this show, so this section is on the things that I didn’t feel so sure about, but which worked out pretty alright, in the end.

1. Kim Yoo Mi as Director Ko

While there are moments in Show’s early stretch where I felt sorry for Director Ko, I must confess that I wasn’t so sure about her as a character, for a good while.

Director Ko is presented as a woman who is serious and passionate about her work; a woman who gave up marriage in order to focus on her career. And in some of her actions, she seems to almost begrudge Dan Yi her tentative steps back to meaningful work.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Additionally, there’s something about Director Ko’s soft-spoken yet curt and almost flippant way of talking that makes her come across as quite unlikable, like cruelty is just a casual remark, for her. Of course, she often has a point, like she does in episode 6 when she points out that Dan Yi’s name should be removed from the copyright page, and Eun Ho acknowledges that too. But, my beef with Director Ko was that, even in her strong desire to play by the rules (and yes, the rules exist for a reason), I felt like she could have mixed in a lot more humanity and empathy into the way she looks at the work, the company, and the people who make up the company.

As Show peeled back Director Ko’s layers, though, I did begin to come around to her as a character.

For example, in episode 11, it’s quite poignant, how Director Ko meets her ex-fiance. It’s exactly not how she imagined it would be, and it makes her cry alone afterwards, in her apartment. That’s relatable in that even if you’ve never been in exactly her situation, you’d likely have someone that you imagined meeting again, and how that would go. My heart goes out to her in this moment, because she probably feels so alone and pathetic as she sits in her mess of an apartment and cries.

And then in episode 12, when Director Ko states that Dan Yi should be fired for lying on her resume, I feel for Dan Yi as Eun Ho does, but at the same time, I have to agree with Director Ko. The company can’t just gloss over the fact that she lied in order to get the job.

Ultimately, though, it’s Director Ko who gives Dan Yi a lead to her next job, which led me to conclude that Director Ko wasn’t being malicious in laying down the law at Dan Yi’s deception; she’s just that kind of principled person who feels the need to act according to explicit guidelines and rules. But, the fact that she seeks Dan Yi out to give her the contact, shows that she does have personal regard for Dan Yi, and I appreciated that a lot.

By this point in the show, I’d come to the conclusion that Director Ko is a good person at heart, beneath her prickly, stickler-for-the-rules surface. And so, when we later see sparks buzzing between Director Ko and CEO Kim, I was glad for her, that she might finally have found someone to share her life with. Beyond the thrill of the physical proximity of him sewing back her button in episode 14, I found it poignant that it’s his words of appreciation for her hard work and work ethic, that brings tears to her eyes. That’s really the moment that I felt like these two really connected on a deeper level, and I was glad for it.

[END SPOILER]

2. The secret around Writer Kang

From early on in our story, Show teases a mystery around Writer Kang and his connections to Eun Ho, Gyeoroo as a whole, and Seo Joon.

The thing is, Show teases us with fragments of information, and then doesn’t do anything with said fragments, for episodes on end. By episode 12, I’d decided that I wasn’t very interested in this arc at all. But, because Show had done so well in my books on so many other things, I decided to continue giving Show the benefit of the doubt, that it would eventually wrap up this arc in a satisfactory manner.

Happily, Show does just that, which I’ll talk more about in the spotlight on the penultimate episode.

THEMES / IDEAS

For a show as thoughtfully written and as lyrically strong as this one is, there are many themes and ideas ripe for the picking. Off the top of my head, here are just a few:

1. The idea of love not having to equate possession.

2. The idea of being shaped by our past, but not being limited by it.

3. The idea of doing something purely out of passion.

[SPOILER] There’s a sobering arc in episode 7, about the poet who died alone and poor, because his poetry never sold well – and that, in part at least, because people would upload his entire books of poetry online for others to read. That’s a statement and wake-up call, for all the piracy that goes on in the interwebs, and it’s really sobering to see the real consequences it can have on the content creator. At the same time, it’s really heart-tugging to see that the poet never stopped writing poetry, in spite of all that. He didn’t write for the money, although money would have been good. He wrote because it was part of who he was. How beautiful. [END SPOILER]

4. The idea of second chances.

5. The idea of frailty in humanity, but at the same time, the strength that comes from hope, in humanity.

A QUICK SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]

The secret around Writer Kang comes to a head, and in the overall scheme of things, I like the way Show handles this arc.

Do I wish that there wasn’t some kind of big secret in this story world like so many other kdramas before it? Yes. But, given that this was what writer-nim wanted, do I think that Show handled it with just the right touch? Also, yes.

Even though we started this arc a bit heavy-handed, with Seo Joon having a lock on his Writer Kang-centered cave and acting all touchy-mysterious about it, I do like that this arc has mellowed out into something more personal and meaningful. The mystery giving way to the reveal, that Seo Joon is Writer Kang’s son, lost through a mother’s decision to be independent of the father of her child, and through a father’s lost memories, is quite heartfelt and poignant, I thought.

In that final scene where Eun Ho, Hae Rin and Dan Yi sit down to share the information that they have, and the conclusion of Seo Joon’s relationship with Writer Kang surfaces, I can feel that these three people all care about Seo Joon, and are looking upon this reveal in the most humane, empathetic way. I liked that.

Manager Bong walking in on his ex-wife’s alleged tryst with a new man, feels poignant and real. He still cares about her, and wants her back, but she’s not willing, and is choosing to move on. The strained air between them, as he desperately asks her if what they had wasn’t special, feels so palpable.

Dan Yi choosing to quit her new job on a principle, even though she has no other viable job option awaiting her, is admirable. I like that she’s a woman who values honor and ethics enough to put her own financial security on the line.

Eun Ho taking a private moment to do a Dan Yi victory dance, when he finds out that she’s won the TOP competition, is freaking adorkable. More than that, I love how supportive he is of her, and how proud he is of her. He doesn’t know that this will lead to her re-employment, but he’s just so proud of her for shining brightly and doing well, and leaving on a high note. Aw.

Lastly, shout-out to Show for not rocking the OTP relationship in the penultimate episode as so many other kdramas tend to do. Instead, we see Eun Ho and Dan Yi standing by each other more overtly than ever, and it’s a pleasure to behold.

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

Not gonna lie, my friends. I felt distinctly wistful going into the finale, because I just knew in my gut that I would be sorry to say goodbye to these characters and this drama world. And I was right. As I watched this finale, and as Show’s lens gradually adjusted in degrees to distance me a little more – and then a little more – from these characters, I felt a deep wistfulness in my heart, even as these lovable folks continued to make me smile. In this case, I just feel the need to quote Shakespeare a bit: parting really is sweet sorrow.

It doesn’t feel as if a whole lot happens in this final hour, but we do get some important plot movement.

Most notably, Seo Joon finally gets the closure he’s been searching for all these years, with the father that he thought didn’t want him. I felt more moved by this arc than I thought I would be; my heart went out to Seo Joon, who’d been feeling a sense of rejection from the father that he yearned for. How sad, that he suffered so much emotionally, for a conclusion that was completely misplaced. His dad didn’t seek him out not because he didn’t want to, but because he couldn’t. I’m relieved for him, that he’s now finally able to move on, with a comforted and soothed heart, and a new lightness and hope in his spirit, despite losing his father just as he found him.

It was heartening to see Seo Joon’s new friends from Gyeoroo rally around him during this emotionally overwhelming milestone in his life. In particular, I felt glad for his growing friendship with Hae Rin, and I thought I would never wipe the gleeful grin off my face, when Seo Joon finally makes his romantic intentions towards Hae Rin known, in an alarmed attempt to stop her from going on a blind date. Hee. Nothing like a little bit of time pressure to nudge things along, eh? I kind of thought Show might leave this loveline open, with potential for Seo Joon and Hae Rin to move beyond friendship sometime in the future, and I would’ve been perfectly happy with that, I think. But I can’t deny that I’m just super pleased to be able to witness the moment that Seo Joon sheepishly lets Hae Rin know how he feels, and her face blossoms into the most endearing, sweet, surprised smile. Kya! I ship these two, I do.

On a related note, I also liked that Show gave CEO Kim and Director Ko a confirmed loveline in its last few minutes. We don’t get to see exactly how that goes down, but I rather like the idea of Show giving these two the privacy to figure things out, presumably on the day that Director Ko responds to CEO Kim’s advice that “while you may love work, it will never love you back,” with a carelessly audacious invitation to play hooky together for the day. That’s just enough cute for me, with these two, and just knowing that they’re dating and not lonely anymore, and making each other happy, makes me happy.

In terms of our other couples, I rather like the note on which we leave ex-spouses Manager Bong and Manager Seo. It’s a sad reality that they got divorced, and I appreciate Show acknowledging that not all relationships can be mended, and that sometimes it’s the healthier thing to do, to separate and move on. What I do like, is that we get to see them come to more amicable terms for the sake of their son. I like that Manager Bong gets time with his son on the weekend, and I like even more, that they still have family meals together, coz even though they are no longer husband and wife, they will always be their son’s parents.

Even Park Hoon and Ji Yul get their awkward happy ever after, with Park Hoon storming in on yet another one of Ji Yul’s blind dates, and Ji Yul finally making her feelings for him known, by pecking him on the lips. It’s as hilariously awkward as these two have been all series long, and I found this a fitting note on which to leave them.

Of course, one of my personal highlights of this finale is seeing Dan Yi revel in her return to Gyeoroo, complete with Gyeoroo’s trademark trenchcoat swish. Yess!

I love that everyone’s just so pleased to see her again, and that they welcome her back with cheers, smiles and all kinds of thoughtful gestures. It’s in the gladness her colleagues express, that we get a sense, all over again, of just how much of a difference Dan Yi has made in the office, and I’m so happy for her, that she’s finally got the chance to be fully herself, as she applies herself to her new job. No more lies about her resume; no more pretending to be a marketing noob; she’s free to learn and grow, just as she is, and I love it.

I love, too, that Eun Ho casually makes their relationship public in front of the rest of the company, by unabashedly holding her hand, as they all walk together after a company dinner. This was the final thing in my mind that I wanted Show to deliver on. I wanted Dan Yi and Eun Ho to be able to date openly without having to sneak around, and seeing their colleagues hoot and holler happily for them, made me happy too.

On a more private note for the OTP, I also liked that Show settled their living arrangements once and for all as well. I like that when Eun Ho realizes that Dan Yi is working to keep her promise of only living at his house for 6 months, he doesn’t stop her, but goes with her to look at apartments, and then tells her that if she’s moving, he’s moving with her, because if he’s her home as she said, then where she is, is his home too. D’aw. Dan Yi protests a little, that her daughter will graduate and need a place to stay, and Eun Ho answers simply that they’ll figure things out when that happens. I found this so down-to-earth and sweet. No big fanfare, no big argument about whether or not she ought to move or stay; just essentially that simple statement: if you stay, I stay, and if you go, I go. Coz we belong together. Melt.

I also really enjoyed Show’s lingering spotlight on the Gyeoroo gang. I liked watching them get so sincerely excited about the books that they’re publishing, and I love the philosophy that CEO Kim shares, that they’ll publish books that make lots of money, so that they will have the means to publish the less popular, but no less important books, that will be treasured for a long time by their readers. Aw. There’s something quite noble about that that I like a lot. I also really appreciate that Director Ko announces that Gyeoroo will henceforth change their recruitment policy to embrace a blind process that only looks at candidates’ abilities and talents, rather than their qualifications or experience. 

What a fitting note on which to end, I thought, since this was the very process that first brought Dan Yi into their midst, undercover and with a fake resume. How lovely, to know that our drama world is taking steps towards systemic change. Yes, that’s not super realistic in some ways, but just as k-romcoms serve us the fantasy of happy-ever-afters with Prince Charmings, this show serves us the hope of a better, happier world, where a happy-ever-after with your Prince Charming is possible, yes, but on top of that, you also get to be recognized for your talents and your abilities, and even women who’ve been away from the workforce for years, have a valid right to a second chance. Yess. That’s the kind of stuff that dreams are made of for some of us, I’m sure.

And because I loved the bonus pages at the end of every episode, with thoughtful, contemplative musings from various characters, here’s a sampling of Show’s final bonus pages:

We are like books. We wait for someone to find us and open us to see what’s inside.

In the end, no one can live without people.

We are trees that branch out in solitude and bear fruits. We are beautiful trees with growth rings of our lives.

Only after finishing the book, I can see what I missed, and life goes the same.

Everyone has their own tunnel to pass. A hand from others helps us forget our fear.

A book that inspires others may not always inspire you, so find a book that does.

In life, we face many hurdles. We use each other’s love to jump over them.

Loving someone is strange and amazing at the same time.

Dear viewers who watched our drama, “The moon is beautiful.”

Yes, the moon is beautiful. Thank you, Show, for opening the pages to me, of the books that are these lovable characters. I enjoyed peeking through their pages very much indeed, and I have a feeling that even as I close the page on my watch, that these characters will keep on living life and reaching new growth rings, long after the credits stop rolling.

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Thoughtful & lyrical, and also, poignant & sweet.

FINAL GRADE: A

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Author: kfangurl

Proud to be a k-fangirl since 2007. Main diet of kdramas with movies and kpop on the side.

53 thoughts on “Review: Romance Is A Bonus Book

  1. Hey there KFG!

    Ah, nothing like a trip to The Verdict to round out a viewing experience! I enjoyed this show for the most part, primarily for the reasons you laid out so cleanly here, and I’m grateful for your thorough exploration of all the intangibles that gave me a greater appreciation for things I hadn’t really noticed while watching. For example, it never really dawned on me that this wasn’t a romance per se, despite the title indicating as much! You’re right–this was the story of Dan Yi’s journey that happened to include a fleshed out relationship, and I was happy that the conflict was appropriately centered around that journey. There are a few ‘romances’ that do that as well, and I find those are the ones with a more pleasant final act for me. When so much care is taken to bring an OTP together, sometimes the way they have to be torn asunder for tension can really skew into the contrived spectrum. Shows like this that use a conflict outside of the relationship allow us to see how the characters interact during times of crisis and difficulty, which I find particularly insightful and interesting.

    I appreciated the fact that Dan Yi tended her resignation, realizing that Eun Ho either couldn’t or wouldn’t fire her himself. The fact that she could do something so selfless amidst the most difficult in-show moment for her was commendable, and I was relieved that Eun Ho’s failure to give her the head’s up about the contract termination didn’t cause a rift between them. I was certain she would tearfully look at him and ask how he could not tell her, and he’d whip out the “I was trying to protect you” line, and she’d say something piercingly revelatory that would let him (and us) know that was the wrong move to make.

    So happy that darker timeline didn’t happen!

    I’m really glad you pointed out the show’s knack for timing in terms of presenting a problem and then moving past it at the right speed. The biggest instance of this for me was Dan Yi’s acceptance of her feelings for Eun Ho once he finally presented himself “as a man”. They were holding hands during a walk “as friends”, fer cry’in out loud! If she had fought it and denied it and gone further into her relationship with Seo Joon for another 1/2 – 1 episode, it would have felt forced. Wittingly or not (I assume the former), Show made the depth of her feelings for Eun Ho very obvious from the beginning; the only thing keeping it in check was the default brother-sister paradigm she had assigned to their relationship. Once that was cracked, the speed at which she realized and accepted their connection and attraction was perfect. She pumped the brakes understandably for a bit, then slowly closed the door on her pleasantly lukewarm relationship with Seo Joon while opening the door to Eun Ho.

    Show had that great knack for pacing throughout, letting each beat land, reverberate, and then crossfade into the next. Dan Yi is taken aback and shaken when her name is removed from the book’s credits, but she soon reaffirms her focus on being grateful and moves on. Seo Joon is understandably bummed that his relationship to Dan Yi is being relegated to friendly neighbors, and his Hail Mary “fold the page corner” bit is admirable attempt to go out with a bang instead of a whimper. He doesn’t immediately rebound into a relationship with Hae Rin, but instead gradually falls into it over several episodes.

    I would argue that while the timing was right, it was artificially achieved in a way that didn’t really gel for me. He had a flashback of Hae Rin early on (which he recalls with a fond smile), that was a cue to me as an audience member that he’s got some feels. The relationship actually starts moving at a good clip after that, but then is suddenly derailed when Hae Rin gets horribly drunk. Maybe I’ve just been conditioned by too many shows that make carrying the drunk gal home and putting her in bed a chance for romantic doting, but I found his fierce and sustained animus towards her to be disingenuous–particularly after she goes to such extreme and admittedly cute lengths to apologize. Show did too good of a job getting them alone together and making their interactions a nice mix of conflict and connection; the natural trajectory would have had them realizing their connection getting together much sooner. Again, I think ultimately the time it took them to get over their former love interests (particularly Hae Rin, considering her affection had been around much longer) and find each other was appropriate, it just seemed like it was awkwardly manufactured.

    All in all though, I would agree that all the relationships and the most of the plot points were given just the right amount of time in the spotlight, which kept the story from bogging down or becoming too sobering.

    And the whimsy! Definitely agree on the whimsy! This was the first show I remember seeing that found a nice middle ground in that regard. It had cartoon-y elements without actually being cartoony. Jae Min was a fun character who got right up to the point of being absurd at times but never crossed the line. And his exuberance and quirky behavior was almost always balanced by a moment of professional solemnity. Eun Ho’s inner conflict manifests itself creatively as a black-clad, “cooler” version of himself instead of cartoon thought bubble (or, in the case of “What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim” an actual cartoon). I would have enjoyed seeing that gag a few more times, but I think it was better to use it sparingly instead of risk overplaying it.

    I’d totally forgotten about the musical number at the beginning (somehow) until you mentioned it in your review, but that was another creative way to establish Dan Yi’s character and perspective going into the story; if there’d been more musical interludes, I think the show could have suffered, but it served to set the tone and then bowed out.

    The Founding Four’s dramatized, slo-mo trench coat scene was another great whimsical, goofy moment that still didn’t stray into the cartoonish realm. Somehow it seemed to fit in with the somewhat peculiar company’s aesthetic, and added a nice touch of levity at a time when the narrative poo was about to hit the fan.

    One of the spicy nuggets for me was when Eun Ho asks Dan Yi why she married her ex-husband. I could see his hurt, his genuine bewilderment, and I remembered the first episode when he could see how distraught she was at the prospect of getting married. I remembered him seeing the guy act like a turd muffin, yet from Dan Yi’s perspective, he “treated her well”. I needed him to ask that question, because I was asking it since the first episode when I found out she’d actually gone back to the wedding. She walked down the aisle virtually in tears, and I was befuddled. How?? Why?? I could feel Eun Ho’s frustration and even some resentment that he’d been sidelined for a guy that just ended up hurting the woman he loved. It was a brief, subtle moment, but one I appreciated.

    Another nugget of merit was when CEO Kim tells Director Ko, “While you may love work, it will never love you back”. You gave a nod to this quote as it kind of launched the relationship between these two, but I also thought it shone a very revelatory light on Director Ko’s attitude for almost the whole show. I was also put off by her attitude for much of the run, but the quote explains why: she was in a loveless marriage. She’d given up love with a person to pursue her love of a career. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you desire to be loved and the thing that is holding that place for you can’t give that love back, it creates a void. It would be like being married to someone who didn’t love you. You’re with them, they hold the place of “love of your life”, but they aren’t actually filling the role. And no one else can fill it because they’re standing there! So Director Ko has spent years investing into her career–not just as a vocation she enjoys, but as the love of her life–and so has grown more and more bitter about what it can’t provide. I think that’s why she could be such a different person away from work; she was temporarily not in that “relationship”, which freed her to be herself and to long for the things she really wanted. Namely friendship, and, ultimately, love.

    I think that quote may have provided a moment of clarity, and the fact that it was said by someone who appreciated and valued her work enhanced the contrast between what her career was to her and what it could be. She could value her career and find fulfillment in it, but it did not deserve to be what she loved and lived for.

    And that indirectly leads to my final moment of appreciation in the ladies’ commiseration scene at Director Ko’s apartment. The amount of emotional range in that scene was incredible, both for the characters and well as the actors. To be able to cry, taper off, then cry again, all while keeping the emotion under control is a huge credit to those three actresses. I don’t know how long that scene took to shoot, but I’m sure it required several hours of sustained emotional exposure. They fed into each other’s pain really well, and it was far more engaging to watch than you’d expect from what appeared at first glance to be a pity party. Just like with the show as a whole, each one of the characters had a heart-wrenching moment, but the moment faded out and into the next before it felt like an indulgence in self-pity. And it wasn’t like they just took turns, each giving a little monologue and then clinking their wineglasses. It was messy, but it was well-crafted messy that felt like it captured a wide range of genuine emotions–albeit ones that were somewhat clouded by intoxication. 😉 Just really well written and well executed, giving insight and sympathy to characters without feeling like they were asking for it. Well done, Show!

    My only complaint within the established reality of the show was the Writer sub-plot (yes, he has a name, but I don’t think he deserves one considering how marginal his presence was, so I’m not gonna use it! Pppbbbttt!). Show just doesn’t give it enough time (not that I wanted it to have more) to provide any pay-off. I don’t think the audience should be two steps ahead of the characters when it comes to a mystery, but I’m pretty sure most of us put the pieces together very quickly…and then had to wait for everyone in the show to catch up and excessively rehash each element. Yes, 4-23 is his birthday, it’s the title of the book. We got it the first five times it was mentioned! Tell us something we don’t know! …Oh wait. It’s over. That was it. *Sound of balloon deflating*

    I also didn’t feel I was given enough development to appreciate why Eun Ho was so violently grieved by the situation. For a brief moment when I was confused about the whole scenario, I thought the Writer was his father. At that point I could understand his emotions. But when I realized that it wasn’t his father, Show lost me. It doesn’t help that the Writer is comatose the entire time and only comes to life in flashbacks. And I’d say “comes to life” is very generous, considering he seemed largely mirthless and flat even before his diagnosis. The story tells me I should care about him because he wrote some great books, but that’s not enough to give his scenes or story any real weight. I think his VO talking about people being books could have really hit the feels, but it was pretty much coming from a cameo character who only had an artificial impact on the story.

    This weak-spot hit me hardest when Dan Yi started crying about how hard it must have been for Eun Ho keeping this secret and suffering for all those years. I felt zip, zero, nada. I think of myself as a pretty sensitive fellow for the most part, and I usually get a bit choked up when someone cries over someone else’s suffering. But the Writer had no character to speak of, had no presence within the present timeline, and his relationship with Eun Ho was super thin and mostly told through gravelly, lifeless journal entries. As a result, I didn’t buy into Eun Ho’s connection, which undercut his grief and suffering, and ultimately made Dan Yi’s mourning on his behalf almost comical. I kept waiting for some revelation, some twist that would make me go, “Oh my gosh…wow. NOW I get it!” Heck, even Eun Ho’s inner struggle was anti-climatic. The Writer asked him not to tell everyone he had Alzheimer’s…so he didn’t. Whaddaya mean is it the right thing? Eun Ho didn’t have a responsibility to tell the world–it was none of their business. If the Writer wanted to go out quietly, that’s his prerogative. I thought maybe Eun Ho had done something that withheld care or lied about something to spare Writer’s feelings. He literally just refrained from saying, “Writer retired because he go Alzheimer’s” to the general public. I’m not really understanding heart-wrench sobs over that decision. Am I missing something?

    As you mentioned, this was the story about Dan Yi’s journey with a supporting arc in the form of her relationship with Eun Ho. The Writer subplot was too far removed from the main thrust of the story, and really only had a justifiable impact on Seo Joon, who was largely a secondary character. Instead of working in concert with Dan Yi’s story, the Writer plot seemed to steal the focus without offering a significant payoff for doing so. I think it could have been woven into a 30-50 episode show that would have given the Writer more of a presence and allowed us to really get invested in Seo Joon. But the fact that he’s really only engaging with Hae Rin by the time the revelation hits just makes it fall flat. It wasn’t something that had any real consequence for the story or the leads. It pretty much boiled down to, “My father did care about me, but lost his memory so he couldn’t find me”. Which is great for Seo Joon and all, but that’s a lot of time dedicated to a very mild revelation; not to mention that it all cast a pretty unfavorable light on how his mother handled the situation.

    I tried not to give that aspect of the story much thought. It just seemed like Show made a mess of everything regarding the Writer and then left us with shreds and fragments of character development regarding Seo Joon and his mother.

    Yikes! I gave more time to that narrative blemish than the writer did! The good thing about a shoehorned plot line that has no real bearing on the story is…well that it’s a shoehorned plot line that has no real bearing on the story. 🙂

    But it does dovetail with my one qualm about the show that admittedly exists outside of the story’s frame. As someone who isn’t terribly big on kids in shows, I was happy that Dan Yi’s daughter was more of an off-screen presence than a regular character. But as someone ostensibly watching a show about a single mother reclaiming her life, I felt a bit cheated.

    Western shows capture the essence of a single-mother’s plight because they often focus on the the elements that comprise the struggle. First, a single mother often has to deal with a lack of support. Not only is the husband gone, but in many cases the family–or much of it–pulls away as well, or was relatively non-existent to begin with. She’s mostly alone and has to deal with the emotional and financial burden of raising a child with very little assistance. Second, the child needs attention and care, both of which take a huge toll on the mother’s time and energy. She works hard at a job all day, then still has to find an opportunity to actually be there for her son or daughter. This not only can impact her efficacy and availability at work, but it makes dating a luxury she can seldom afford.

    But Dan Yi doesn’t have to deal with either of these issues. While her situation is bleak at first, she quickly ends up living rent-free in a really nice house that just happens to be owned by a guy who has been in love with her forever. It takes awhile for her to see the love for what it is, but it’s there. The emotional support, the affection, the provision–pretty much everything someone could want in a marriage–is all right there for her within the firs three episodes. The stakes go way down after that. Yes, her pride and self-sufficiency could needlessly complicate her life (as they complicated it at the beginning), but barring that, she’ll always have a place to live with someone who can offer unconditional emotional and financial support. I can appreciate her strong desire to get a job and do what she loves (oh, how I know the feeling), but she doesn’t have to worry about her or her daughter going hungry. For all intents and purposes, she isn’t “single” for most of the show–at least when it comes to how that standing could impact her life and pursuit of a career.

    To be fair, as you stated in the review, this isn’t a melodrama, so having her be borderline destitute could have killed the tone. But it also puts a candy-coating on her plight that, outside the construct of the show, seems largely dismissive of what single-parents have to struggle with.

    Dan Yi’s daughter is also a non-factor. She has a cameo at the beginning to help remind us that Dan Yi is responsible for more than just her own well-being, but then she isn’t really mentioned again until the apartment hunting at the end of the show. Dan Yi is free to date, go out with friends, and focus all her time and effort on work. (These aren’t long, grueling hours, mind you. She takes on extra work because she loves it and is eager to excel.) The daughter exists, but there’s no effort made to have a relationship with her, no sacrifice of time or energy required to actually be a mother.

    It’s one thing if someone is working long hours and simply doesn’t have the time to be with their child; all the love and energy has to be spent on providing, which is quite a sacrifice. But I never really got a sense of struggle from Dan Yi in that regard. If I didn’t see the first episode or two, I would never have known she had a daughter.

    So basically–from a functional standpoint–Dan Yi wasn’t single and wasn’t a mother. She was an overqualified marketing genius who was willing to humble herself to get back into the job market, and divided her time between advancing her career and nurturing a love life.

    Ultimately the show chose not to focus on the single-parent aspect in the way shows like “One Spring Night” did, which is fine. It made it a lighter story that had its share of heavy moments, but didn’t get itself entangled in some of the more gritty aspects of its premise. If the Show had axed the daughter element altogether and had Dan Yi spending a bit more time struggling at the outset (maybe not enjoying Eun Ho’s hospitality and affection quite so soon), I think the show could have retained its levity without insinuating she was overcoming incredible adversity that simply wasn’t there.

    Still, it’s hard to begrudge a meek, feisty, determined, keen-minded character her happy moments, so accepting the “modified” parameters of the premise isn’t such a hard thing.

    This was pitched to me as a great grounded slice-of-life piece with some touching moments and a solid story, and I’d say it was definitely that. I appreciated the new brand of whimsy it provided along with varied layers of love and diverse snapshots of relational dynamics. Also a bonus to show the second leads finding each other, even if we didn’t get to so more than them starting down that path. Rarely do those types of characters get any love (literally), and this is the first time I’ve seen them match up with each other. It was good to see, and it didn’t feel particularly contrived either.

    16 hours well spent. Thank you for another on-point recommendation, KFG! 😀

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    • Aww, I’m so pleased that you enjoyed your watch of RIABB, Jesse!! Especially considering how this one was nearly written off in the beginning, when you first read the synopsis! I say Show bounced back and then some! 😀

      Yes, I found it really refreshing, to have the romance literally be the bonus, even though it takes up a large chunk of screen time. That Show manages to fill the rest of the screen time with Dan Yi’s personal journey, and do that in a meaningful way while still retaining its lyrical, light touch, is quite something. 🙂 And like you, I really appreciate that issues and challenges weren’t dragged out for Maximum Angst Impact. I feel like that made the show much easier to enjoy and digest, in general. 🙂

      Ooh, that’s a good point about the awkward manufactured tone of how Show keeps Seo Joon and Hae Rin apart, until the timing is right for them to move forward. They probably could’ve done better for Seo Joon to have softened towards cutely drunk Hae Rin, but have him still hold back, because he still wasn’t fully done processing his feelings for Dan Yi.. 🤔

      Oh gosh, yes, the whimsy!! 😀 I rarely jive with a Show’s efforts towards whimsy; so often it comes across as try-hard, contrived, or both. Wok of Love (Greasy Melo) comes to mind; that show tried really hard to sell some whimsy, but it was selling it so hard, that the inherent light hand implied in the very word “whimsy” was completely lost. So, to actually have whimsy that landed well for me, was just SUCH a bonus! 😀 And yes, I agree, underplaying it with a restrained hand is WAY safer than overdoing it!!

      Aw, I like how you frame Director Ko’s conundrum about the chosen love of her life; that’s so true! And it makes a whole lot of sense, that she’d feel freer to be herself, away from the chosen so-called love of her life, which was effectively holding her in an emotional chokehold. Ahh, thanks for unpacking the tipsy solidarity party for me, that was so well done indeed (both your unpacking, and the Show’s handling of the scene).. you’re so right; it didn’t feel manufactured. Instead, it felt organic and raw, and yet, still managed to give each woman a moment in the spotlight, among other women who could commiserate. ❤

      Yeah, I agree, that comatose writer arc was not one of Show's strengths. Overall, it didn't pack enough of an emotional punch, but I decided to call it neutral because it did give us some nice character moments with Eun Ho and Dan Yi, if memory serves. Could Show have done better? Absolutely. I guess I'm counting my blessings, since Show already does so many other things well, heh. 😅

      You're right, the absence of Dan Yi's daughter for almost our entire story is quite odd, especially since the whole reason Dan Yi stepped away from her career, was for her child. I ultimately gave Show a pass on this because 1, like you said, it's not a melodrama; Show is meant to be a light story, albeit a meaningful one, and it's possible that including her daughter in the narrative might have messed with the tone of the story Show wanted to tell; and 2, I decided that it's possible that Show did that on purpose because they wanted this to be about Dan Yi's journey as a person, not just as a mother, and perhaps removing the presence of her daughter, made it easier to focus on that. At least, that's my assumption. I hope it was conscious choice, and not just that they.. forgot, or something! 😆😆

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      • Oh my gosh! I totally forgot this was initially on my “pass” pile! But you’re right, I had kinda written it off because the ML was successful, and I think I also read somewhere about the FL having a kid, which was something I wasn’t too keen on either. Turns out the “successful” element was a non-issue, and Dan Yi’s daughter was mostly a no-show.

        As you said, I think Show wanted to focus on Dan Yi’s journey, so her daughter was more of a launching point than a plot point. Eun Ho’s success is also something that never really comes into focus, and certainly isn’t helpful in getting the girl. In fact, Dan Yi seemed to be more attached to the plush onion she got from Seo Joon than the jewelry from Eun Ho! 😀 Just as with INR2012, I think having the younger ML be successful enables him to more/less be the constant in the relationship, giving the FL the room to grow and change. If he was also a mess at the show’s beginning, we’d have to see progress on his end as well, which would probably make transitioning him from “brother” to “lover” more difficult and less believable.

        I had to look up “Wok of Love”, because I wasn’t sure if the parenthetical was a description or an alternate title. XD The capitalization should have given it away, but “Greasy Melo” is such a less enticing name for a show! I thought maybe it was an apt description, considering the contrived presentation of whimsy.

        Your MAI (Maximum Angst Impact) needs to be a thing, if it isn’t already. 🙂 I think the timing and amount of screen time put towards achieving MAI at various points in the story has a lot to do with how smooth and well-paced a show comes off as a whole. In fact, that concept may just sum up why the Writer plot line was either “neutral” or “irksome” instead of being a key point of interest.

        There largely wasn’t enough time given to setting up the reveal, so the angst really never built up. I remember at one point well into the show thinking, “Oh yeah…what was with that old dude tied to the bed?” and realizing it was like four episodes ago. Even when the story did dip back into that arc, its lack of perceptible impact and interesting characterizations made it very angst-less. So not only did the “maximum angst” amount to diddly, but when Show finally executed the reveal, the impact was negligible as well.

        Fortunately that was just one of many points along the way, and the others managed to reach MAI without taxing the pacing or compromising the nature of the characters.

        *Chuckle* And yes, though it is most assuredly unlikely, it’s funny to think that the writer/producer just completely spaced on the daughter until the very end. 🙂

        “Doesn’t Dan Yi have a kid?”
        “Does she?”
        “Yeah–a girl I think.”
        “That doesn’t sound right.”
        “No, I’m certain I wrote that in the beginning. Remember? She had to go to the hospital—”
        “Aw, snap! You’re right! What did we do with her?”
        “I dunno. Uh…school, I think? Like a boarding school she could live at?”
        “Well…damn. I guess we just have to hope the audience forgot about her too.”
        “That’s not cool. Shouldn’t she at least have a scene with Eun Ho?”
        “Don’t think there’s time. –Oh! During Dan Yi’s apartment search! We can take out the seventh mention of Seo Joon’s birthday being the title of Writer’s book and replace it with Dan Yi saying she needs room in the new place for her girl!”
        “But we just said her daughter is at school. Why does Dan Yi need a room for her?”
        “Eventually. She’ll need it eventually. Like in ten years or something.”
        “Ooohh. Right. Good call! Dodged a bullet there…”

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  2. First, I need to let it known that I adored the TV show, Younger. That’s why, 2 episodes into this drama, I felt offended that it seemed like a total rip-off of that show and they changed only a few minor details. I googled it and understood that RIABB is actually a remake. Ok then, time for me to continue watching the show and finish it out especially since I just love to see LJS in a noona romance again, after effectively convincing me (with lots of fluffy hearts) in I Hear Your Voice despite me not initially being a fan of any of the actors in that drama.

    Sadly, I don’t see the same romantic chemistry he has in IHYV with Dan-i here in RIABB. They look good as friends and noona-dongsaeng, but, that’s just it. The swoony actions of Eun-ho towards Dan-i when she’s not around were the only ones that made me smile because LJS is great in acting those things. But, when he’s around Dan-i, they really look like only best friends. She looks so much like an older sister to him compared to how Jang Hye-sung (Lee Bo Young) was to Su-ha where you don’t even feel the age gap even if they’re 10 years apart in IHYV, while the age gap here in RIABB is only 5 years.

    I think for me who also adored Younger, I was disappointed in the romance aspect of this show because Liza and Josh in that TV series have explosive chemistry from the start even if they’re 15 years in age gap (and the actor is actually gay in real life). So, Eun-ho and Dan-i were comparably flat. The problems of Dan-i as a divorcee rebuilding her life were also worn out on me since I’ve seen them already in Younger’s Liza.

    I’m a fan of noona stories. Until now, I Hear Your Voice is still one of, if not the best there is. It’s one of the very rare shows with that huge age gap but which viewers would never feel with the leads even if one was shown as a high school student.

    Btw, I am a big fan of your reviews usually. You have verbalized almost all of what I feel for the other dramas I watched. This may be the only drama that we do not match in our love/dislike for it.

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  3. I decided to watch this drama after seeing your rating, but I have mixed feelings about this one. I knew I wouldn’t relate to Dan Yi much, since I am a 19 year old with no similar experiences to hers, but I thought it would be interesting to watch since she is only a year younger than my mom.

    I loved that the struggles that Dan Yi faced were realistic and relatable to people in a similar situation as hers, but also how different parts of her struggles could be relatable to different people, such as finding a job at an older age, or continuing a career after a break.

    I would have liked it if the show focused more on Dan Yi as a single parent rather than the secret around Writer Kang, it would have been really interesting to see Dan Yi balance her life as a working single parent. The whole secret around Writer Kang didn’t work for me and I ended dropping the drama after episode 12 and ended up reading your review to see what happened in the last few episodes 😀

    Overall it was a sweet drama, but I have to admit that I found it to be a bit boring at times. However, after reading your review, I definitely appreciate this drama a bit more as the bits you highlighted made me view this drama from a different perspective. 🙂

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  6. since stay at home is extended… again, iv got to check your rate and review on a certain drama so to choose which to watch. whenever i check be kdramas, i often see RIABB as one of the listed best but i always give a pass since i’m not familiar with the lead female and the title doesn’t seems to attract me. but thankfully, you gave an ‘A’ so i know it would be best for me to watch and i wont ever regret watching it. truly, your verdict says how good a drama is and that’s why i trust you. haha

    in fairness on the female lead, Lee Na-young, she nailed it. as you have said, it was a noona romance but it was not the focus of the story. i like the part in episode 2 when the applicants were asked to write something on what they want to say to their selves and i was so touched on what kang da ni wrote. like most of us, we have done a lot of things and made decisions that even our very selves were undervalued knowingly or unknowingly. and life doesn’t stop there. this drama has teach me to think of my life and apologize to myself for the wrongdoings of the past and to move on to correct it and do the best.

    eniwe… thanks as always.

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    • Hi there marj, thanks for allowing me to persuade you to give this one a try! 🙂 Indeed, the noona romance was the bonus in this story, and I agree, that part in E2, where Dan Yi writes to her past self, was very poignant. This drama was sweetly thought-provoking, and I’m so glad that you ended up loving it. ❤

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  8. Pingback: Dear kfangurl: Which dramas have strong, interesting female characters? | The Fangirl Verdict

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  11. Wow! this KDrama made me follow your blog!😍 I wasn’t sure of watching RIABB as I wasn’t really a huge fan LJS (previously). It made me do a research prior to giving this one a go 😀.
    I carefully avoided your spoiler alerts so I could really connect to this drama on my own.
    Whew! No regrets. I have loved Romance Is A Bonus Book from Ep.1-16 ❤. & I have also confirmed my genuine love for Cha Eun Ho… Errr.. For #LeeJongSuk I mean 😍. I must say that Dan-I’s character is super adorable with a real strength of an empowered woman. Eun Ho played made me realize the true meaning of loyalty & true love, thank you, LJS for giving life to his character, I love you so much!!
    Salamat for this blog. I’ll share this in Twitter. 😊
    “We are like books. We wait for someone to find us and open us to see what’s inside.”
    #RomanceIsABonusBook
    #NoonaLove
    * comment edited to remove download link, to stay on the safe side of the DMCA bots. ~kfangurl

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    • Hi there Joan, thanks for trusting my review enough, to give RIABB a try! And I’m so glad you ended up loving it, as I did. It really is quite special, and I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. Thanks for following the blog and coming along for the ride! ❤

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  12. Interesting! Will definitely watch this one tonight ❤
    Thank you! (:

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  13. Pingback: Review: One Spring Night | The Fangirl Verdict

  14. A well thought out review 🙂 This was one I found to be quite slow as the plot didn’t really do much for me. But I did like our main couple and the supporting characters as well as some of the issues the drama addressed. Also liked the publishing setting. Not a favorite, but it was an okay watch 🙂

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    • Ah, sorry to hear this one didn’t work for you as well as it did for me, Kay. I really do think that this one works for a specific profile of viewer. Perhaps you simply didn’t fit that profile.. I know that viewers are generally divided about this one. The ones who love it, love it a lot, and the ones who don’t, simply find it just ok. And that’s ok. 🙂 There are always other dramas to love, after all. 🙂

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  15. Pingback: Review: Romance Is A Bonus Book (로맨스는 별책부록) – escapismworld

  16. This one looks so good! The synopsis reminds me of The First Half Of My Life, which I lovedddddd to bits. So I’m excited to be catching this one (hopefully soon lol) since I think I saw it on Netflix

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  17. Pingback: Review: Touch Your Heart [Reach Of Sincerity] | The Fangirl Verdict

  18. Special mentions to the book scribbles and notes that brought the thoughts of our leads into the light. I just loved that part and I used to watch the ending patiently because I had to read those notes. A brilliant idea indeed. Also , how it showed how hard it is make a book and how many people are involved to just make one book. Even when i was reading this review my eyes welled up I don’t know why and a sudden desire to watch it again.

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    • Oh yes, I LOVED those blurbs at the end! I would back up and rewatch and pause if needed, just to make sure I didn’t miss any of them! ❤ Aw, thanks for enjoying the review and revisiting the feels with me. This one definitely is worthy of a rewatch. ❤

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  19. Hello fangirl! I was waiting for this review quite anxiously and thank you that my wait is over. I loved this show even though I am a sucker for romantic shows but the muted romance in this one didn’t made any difference to me. I was more involved in the struggles of Dan-i and her attitude of never giving up. It actually made me wonder that women who give away their careers and job to raise a child get no credit where they have worked equally hard like a working woman just that they did that in closed walls. It made me cry so many times especially when Dan-I was in an interview and she was thinking how hard she has worked to keep up her family but their is no one who would appreciate that.

    This show was more about women, their struggles and how hard it is to be a working woman or a divorcee or even being single. I just loved the premise of the show that highlighted how hard it is to be a woman and why we need to appreciate the efforts that women around us make for us. I also liked Eun Ho as a character but I was pretty more inclined towards Dan-i’s character.

    P.S: I wouldn’t mind another sequel with our second leads who had the potential of an awesome love line.

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    • Aw, thanks for waiting for this review, soumya! ❤ This show really is quite special, in how it spends more time on women and their journeys, rather than on romance. Especially since this was marketed much like a typical k-rom-com. In that sense, I applaud the writer and PD for sticking with their vision, and keeping the romance secondary, even while giving it its strong moments. I'm with you on being partial to Dan Yi's character, even though Eun Ho is presented as the male lead. I guess this was just always more Dan Yi's story than a love story between the OTP. And that's fine by me, it was so beautifully done. ❤ And YES, I really wouldn't mind a sequel with Seo Joon and Hae Rin's love story at the center – and more Gyeoroo around them, for good measure. That would be great. 😍

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  20. Wonderful again @kfangurl. I was so nostalgic reading you.

    I truly love this show to bits as well. What raised it a notch for me were the book metaphors that were sprinkled along the way at the right times. Books and how they are found or opened or read as metaphors for people, for relationships, for life … they were so apt, so thought-provoking and inspiring. This show has raised the bar on light yet thoughtful shows, with relevant social comment, with heart and high entertainment value.

    This is one show I can re-watch many times with a smile on my face. 🙂

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    • Aw, thank you GB! ❤ I'm so glad that you enjoyed this review, and that you loved this show as well! 😀 Indeed, those metaphors and thoughtful nuggets were so lovely; it feels like writer-nim's been thinking these things for a long time, and just gave them space to blossom, in this show. ❤ You're so right that this one managed to stay light, yet managed to be so thought-provoking and inspiring. That's a special feat indeed, and like you, I'm putting this in the pile of dramas that are worthy of a rewatch – or several. ❤

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  21. I replayed seo jun and hae rin’s last scene together three times, i love their dynamics. And you mentioned poetic and lyrical many times in describing this show, that’s also one reason why i love it. If only there’s a book that contains all their dialogues, inner monologues, poems and books recited, i would love to buy it and read it over and over again.

    Your review really reflects on how much you love this show, and reading this made me love the show even more. ❤❤❤❤❤

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    • Aw, thank you Karren, I’m so glad you enjoyed this review, and I’m even more pleased, that reading this made you love the show more! ❤ Yes, that last scene of Seo Joon and Hae Rin was just really adorkable and precious, and I don't blame you at all, for wanting repeated instant replays of it! 😀 They were so cute! ❤ And indeed, all the thoughtful, lyrical bits in this show were prize-worthy; worthy of their own book, as you say! 😀

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  22. Excellent commentary. All the things you loved were my favs too. ❤️

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  23. I… dropped this.

    Admittedly this is the Year of Dropping for me. I never used to be able to do it and so I decided to force myself to this year. I watched so many dramas last year that I came out of it a little crazy and slightly unhinged. So when I realised I wasn’t enjoying this I decided to opt out.

    I could go into all the reason why this show didn’t connect with me but I’ll concentrate on the main one – Dan-yi was a Mary Sue. If you’d told me a late-30s Korean Mary Sue was a thing that could exist I wouldn’t have believed you but Dan-yi was one. To the point where she just felt like a cipher for the writer, an avatar dropped into the plot that could be whatever was needed at any particular point in time. The kind of issues she ostensibly faced are real ones faced by women every day. But none of it felt real, particularly with her daughter who was conveniently absent and who, I believe, never surfaced at all.

    While I wouldn’t categorise the show as bad, I would categorise it as ‘meh’ and while in the past I would have pressed on to the end with a ‘meh’ in this case I decided to cut my losses. I do not regret the decision.

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    • Dame Holly, I had a thought “what would happen when Mary Sue meets Marty Stu?” 😂😂😂

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    • Aw, I’m sorry this one didn’t work for you, Dame Holly! This show really doesn’t resonate with everyone, I know. I’m not sure why, but I just didn’t see Dan Yi as a Mary Sue.. I usually can recognize them without problems. 🤔 But I just liked Dan Yi, and admired her for her choice to be resilient, when she have every reason to break down. I think part of the reason I didn’t peg her for a Mary Sue, is because her struggles, while exaggerated in spots, feels like a recognizable reflection of many women in society. In that sense, that made me see her more as a representative of women in similar positions, rather than a special snowflake chosen to suffer much more than mankind in general. Also, she came across as vulnerable too, which made me see her as more of a real person than a caricature that just magically is happy and positive and bounces back without any problems. We see her cry, and we see her struggle, and then we see her choose to pick herself up again, even when it’s hard, and I just really grew fond of her, for that. Of course, I agree that her daughter was oddly absent, and Show could’ve done better on that front, but I did still manage to enjoy the show very much. 🙂 You did the right thing tho, in dropping out when you found that this wasn’t working for you. It’s always worse to press on, only to hate it more. 😛

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  24. I’m so glad you did this review kfangurl. Romance is simply delightful and must watch viewing. The writing for this show was wonderful in itself. Eun Ho using “The Moon is Beautiful Tonight” (with its Japanese origins) and replacing it with “The Snow is Beautiful Tonight” is magical storytelling all on its own.

    I can’t speak highly enough of Lee Na Young. She is out and out excellent as Dan-Yi. However, I was never quite sold on Eun Ho as a character. There is nothing wrong with Lee Jong Suk’s acting as Eun Ho, but I can’t put my finger on it either. Yes, I won’t deny his warmth and affection did shine through later.

    I tend to have this thought that Dan-Yi’s total ignorance of Eun Ho’s feelings early on was a way of subconsciously protecting something that is so precious to her. Mind you, I am more than happy to be wrong on this front too 😊

    There are many wonderful characters. Director Ko was a firm favourite with me. I didn’t agree with much of her outdated management style, but what a great character all the same. CEO Kim – just made me nod in appreciation – with his “are any of you really listening to me” exasperations (and currently playing a delightful role as the Vice President of machinations in The Banker). Manager Seo was also delightful (it’s good to see Kim Sun Young is getting more prominent support roles of late – she is playing a blinder in Her Private Life). As for Jo Han Chul – what a dab hand he is as an actor (currently playing a revengeful role in Kill It). I really felt for Hae Rin. She deserved so much better. I liked our young couple very much – that scene where he ended up at the sauna was very reminiscent of the cat that pushes you out of bed 😂

    However, I wasn’t sold on Seo Joon (is there a trend here with my take on the male leads I wonder?). The show never lost its stride of turning from his dark and mysterious machinations re finding out about his father and completing his last novel to one of a collaborative team member.

    Overall, Gyeoroo Publishing is a wonderful little family, and as a family, deserved the delightful wrap up at the end 🦄 and 🌈

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sean Fletcher, I’m glad to see you watched and enjoyed this show.

      I’m not sure if it’s the same thing for me when I kind of feel also not being totally sold on Eun Ho or Seo Joon as characters, especially when I first encounter them. There was something about the way they were that was a bit over-the-top. Too confident, too defensive, too cocky, and despite hearing that they are great talents, I was not sure I found their attitudes justified. Seo Joon being dark and mysterious, was I felt, too much affectation. It could have been downplayed. In any case, the over-the-top parts happily toned down soon enough and I did grow to like them quite well, Eun Ho more than Seo Joon.

      What I liked about this show is that no matter how unsympathetically characters began, they were all shown to be rounded and ‘human’ and somewhat relatable by the end. They were like books that we were allowed to dip into and read a bit of, so that we became more understanding and patient with them.

      The Gyeoroo family was the crowning thing for me in liking this show. I loved the teaser with all of the company doing the victory dance, and I really wanted it to take place in the office during the show’s run. I found the end so poignant as the staff members walked out the door to leave the office empty for the night.

      With all the great relationships developing, truly in this show, romance was a bonus. Not only do we have the Gyeoroo family, which I already found to be sufficient, on top of the main romance, but we have several other romances as well to warm the heart. Quite a delightful watch!

      Liked by 2 people

      • GB, you paint things so wonderfully here re the characters as books and what it means to be part of the Gyeoroo family.

        Yes, for me, both Eun Ho and Seo Joon needed to be dialled back a bit. I just found what they offered at times was at odds with their characterisations – and so it didn’t ring “true”.

        At the end of the day, because of the Gyeoroo Family, I could have happily watched more episodes of Romance.

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    • Ah, I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, Sean! It truly was a delight, in spite of whatever weaknesses we manage to find. ❤

      After reading your comment as well as GB's reply, I do agree that both male leads did come across rather strong at first, particularly when they butted heads. That was rather out of step with Show's otherwise sweet and thoughtful vibe, come to think of it. I think this might've bothered me more in another show, but because this was so strongly Dan Yi's story and her journey, that my brain probably categorized the male leads' inconsistencies as a secondary thing, in that it niggled me momentarily, and then didn't, when Show course corrected and made them warm and much more normal afterwards. 🤔

      I would believe your take on why Dan Yi was so oblivious to Eun Ho's feelings for her.. Even when it managed to come to the surface and she had to consciously face the possibility, she did avoid it for a while as well, so that meshes with your take as well. And that makes sense too, because it's completely plausible that she wouldn't want to risk losing Eun Ho if things didn't work out between them romantically.

      Oh yes, I AM so glad to see Kim Sun Young getting more screen time these days, I enjoy her so much. ❤ Altogether, Gyeoroo really was a wonderful bunch who indeed felt like family, and I would've watched so many more episodes of them just working together and growing together, all passionate about books and poetry and making the world a better place. ❤

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  25. I absolutely loved your review. It let me reminiscence what I loved about the show, it was so pure and touching. I truly related to Dan Yi’s struggles and I enjoyed that the spotlight was on their individual journeys. As you pointed out, the romance was a bonus. Thank you for the beautiful review!

    On another note, have you checked out He is Psychometric yet? I was quite averse to the show but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I would suggest giving it a shot!

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    • Hi there NK, thanks for enjoying this review, and I so agree, this show had something very pure and touching about it, at its core. So lovely. ❤ Also, I have started on Psychometric, I'm only a few eps in so far, but I like it quite well at the moment. I hope I'll love it as much as everyone else! 🙂

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  26. Oh yay I’ve been waiting for this! Rare that I can comment on a pretty-recent drama, hehe. I am so happy you like this show! And yes the writing is thoughtful and lyrical – totally agree on this. I think our tastes are similar in that we like good thoughtful lyrical writing (see My Ajusshi and Because This Life Is My First). The fact that it’s about book publishing was so lovely, I love books and reading (think that’s obvious by now) and getting a taste of it was so nice, even if fictional.

    I agree this is not a show for everyone, I don’t think I would’ve appreciated this show if I had watched it 10 years earlier (in my 30s so I can appreciate some of the themes more). I came in for the romance but left most touched by the female friendships and Dan-yi’s growth like you mentioned. I loved how they explored women at different life stages, and how realistic the divorce came about, and being married with family but no career vs being single with career – how it’s perceived by others and how it is actually lived out – was portrayed. I like how there wasn’t a miraculous happy reconciliation for Manager Seo, cos that’s how life is, but somehow they made it work for their son. Same for Dir Ko and her ex fiancé. Although the love line between her and CEO was a bit unnecessary/rushed but cute all the same. So loved the clubbing and post-clubbing sharing and tentative female friendships being formed, as well as the friendship between Dan-Yi and Hae Rim.

    I’m not a major noona romance kind, but LJS is very cute so that was enjoyable. I watched some interviews and apparently LJS was a major fan of LNY and kept saying she was his favourite actress/dream partner kind so maybe some of his fanboying (is that the right word??) was part of Eun Ho’s love for Dan-yi. Maybe!! But they sure had good chemistry and yes, it was really a cozy and lived in relationship. And also Wie Ha Joon is so cute so I liked his relationship with both Dan-yi and Hae Rim. And Geum-bi! Adorable.

    The only 2 things I didn’t like so much about this show was the smoking (didn’t feel that it added to the show..) and Dan-yi’s child. I get that they needed a reason for Dan-yi to be out of work for many years and then to return and struggle, but I thought they could’ve done it by her taking care of an elderly relative who passed away so she had to return to work. I felt that for a mom there was not so much interaction or mention of the child (although I know she’s the driving force for Dan-Yi to keep picking herself up). But all the moms I know really talk a lot or talk a lot to their kids even if they’re away, so that was a little incongruous for me. And how Dan-yi was getting into a relationship with Eun Ho, wished they showed a little more about her thinking of the new relationship’s possible impact on the child. i was glad they mentioned when she was thinking of moving house but wished for more!!

    I also loved the closing scene – that they ended it with lingering shots of the company. I loved the little gang, and I’ll miss their fun and passion for work and books 🙂

    Other than that (oops this turned out long again, I think I’m not capable of short comments), I really enjoyed this one and it turned out to be a lot more thoughtful and meaningful than I expected 🙂 thanks for the review!

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    • Aw, thanks for waiting for this review, MC! ❤ You are very sweet indeed. 🙂 And, given that this show really isn't for everyone, I'm so glad that you enjoyed this one as much as you did! Coz like I said, when this one works for you, it works so WELL. ❤

      I had expected this to be more of a romance too, despite the title literally telling me that romance was a bonus! And I loved that this story world was actually so much more than set dressing for a main romance. And oh my word, YES, the focus on women and their struggles, and the budding friendships between the women, were just so.. life-giving, in a sense. It felt thoughtfully portrayed, not just stuck in there to satisfy the women viewers. 🙂

      Aw, I think I did come across something like that, saying that LJS always wanted to work with LNY. How cute, that his wish came true! You make an excellent point about Dan Yi being strangely silent about her child, especially with Eun Ho. That really isn't how moms roll. I do think Show was trying to make the point that Dan Yi is rediscovering her identity and her groove as an individual rather than as a mother, but I do also agree that we could've seen Dan Yi thinking about her daughter more, or mentioning her more. That would've felt more realistic. Also.. I'm sorry, I don't get the smoking reference?

      Yes, I love that the office gang got their shared spotlight at the end, even though this was primarily Dan Yi's story. Altogether a lovely show that I'm really glad to have watched. ❤

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      • Yes I’m so glad they really made romance just a bonus book! I thought it would just be a fluffy romance (which was what I was looking for haha) but I was so touched and impressed that it was far more than that.

        Oh the smoking – there were a few occasions where LNY and LJS were holding cigarettes. Looked like they were gonna smoke/had been smoking, which maybe was an attempt to show “this is not a kids show it’s a grown up show” but I didn’t think it was necessary (maybe also cos I dislike smoking). But if you didn’t pick it up, good for you too! Cos it took me a bit by surprise (not in a good way) so I wasn’t a fan of that. But otherwise love this show!

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        • Ah, I see what you mean about the smoking. I think I saw that, but didn’t quite register it very strongly. Yes, I agree the story didn’t need it, but also, perhaps Show wanted to appear more realistic. Compared to what we see in kdramas, there’s a lot more smoking in movies, and from what I understand, smoking is very prevalent in Korea. So perhaps it was a stab at providing a little more realism to our drama world, in a similar vein of Dan Yi’s suffering in the earlier eps. Thankfully that wasn’t a big presence, coz like you, I’m perfectly happy without it! 🙂

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  27. It worked for me and my husband 😊 Such a sweet and soothing experience. How much I love that the heroine is so mature and low key and cool! Loved all 4 main characters, their dynamics and also drama’s love for books ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay that you loved this one, snow! And how fun, that your hubs enjoyed it with you! 😀 Indeed, this one had a soothing effect about it, especially with the thoughtful voiceovers and bonus pages. ❤ I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved Dan Yi too, considering I don't always love female lead characters because of how they're written. This was truly a lovely surprise. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Bang On review @kgangulr .. thanks so much … i love reading your take on the show , you really know how to pick up the nuances and dissect a show … love it more when I have seen the show and have the ” Ahh… yes .. that right ” moment … 🙂

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