Yoon Dan Oh had enjoyed a comfortable life as the beloved youngest daughter of a well-off family, but no longer. Now the family breadwinner, she runs the Ihwawon Inn. Current guests are scholars taking the civil service entrance exam in the hopes of becoming high-ranking officials. Among them are Kang San, Kim Si Yeol, and Jeong Yoo Ha, who all have deep secrets. They and Yoon Dan Oh will share information and cooperate to find Lee Seol, who disappeared 13 years ago. (Source: MyDramaList) ~~ Adapted from the novel "Flower Scholar’s Love Story" (꽃선비열애사) by Kim Jung Hwa (김정화). Edit Translation
Where to Watch The Secret Romantic Guesthouse
Cast & Credits
It’s a “fusion sageuk” and I loved it. [Major Spoilers]As I understand the term, “fusion” sageuk is not based on actual history (which was cruel, bloody and terrifying for just about everyone) so the writers can incorporate more humor and more true romance (as opposed to arranged marriages). It’s my 1st time watching any sageuk beyond the first 2 episodes for the following reasons [spoilers!]
1. The main reason I continued to watch beyond Ep. 3 was the Character of Shi-yeol. I have never seen the actor Kang Hoon before, but I am now watching many of his prior dramas: Little Women, etc. He carried the show forward.
2. For the first 10 episodes, there was a continuing mystery as to which of the scholars was the real lost prince, which one was the “Watchman” and if there were any other assorted “royals” who might have a claim to the throne. The Watchman “reveal” was one of the best written, directed and choreographed scenes I have ever watched – and re-watched. Truly Epic (and bloody).
3. Much of the drama was full of many side characters with conspiracies, betrayals, spies/counter-spies but at about the 12 episode mark, the puzzle pieces began to align and the viewer understood who was friend or foe and (except for one minor character in Ep 18 – a truly wasted 4 minutes) there were no major surprises. In other words, the writers carefully wove the various storylines together and there were no “WTF” moments where a character totally forgot about a prior conversation or new facts were suddenly inserted to move the story forward.
4. Happy Ending for the entire Ilwahon family: Dan-oh, Kang San, Yu-ha, Shi-yeol, Naju, Yook Ho and Hong-joo
5. I hate star-crossed lover stories usually, but the slow-burn romance between Shi-yeol and Hong-joo was beautifully written and because of their backstory/history, it was easy to see how their connection grew and evolved. In my view, they outshone the supposed Main Couple whose primary claim to romance was a childhood connection. Anyway, very happy ending for both couples, so good job writers.
6. The sword fights (and there were many) were well choreographed – outstanding stunt work. The production team did not spare expense in filming the final outdoor scenes both within and outside the palace.
7. All of the bad guys died 😊
A few negatives:
As w/most k-dramas, the ending (last ½ hour of Ep. 18) was rushed as everyone’s story was wrapped up with a neat bow in a two-year time skip. However, the reconciliation between Shi-yeol and Hong-joo was a series of small scenes – I was frankly surprised at the writers/directors because they shared short “sketch” scenes which may have been in the novel, but as I said – rushed. Not even a kiss or hug when they reunited. ☹☹
Lots of blood spilled but the most graphic scenes involved the bad guys, so easier to handle.
Not what I expected in the best way!"The Secret Romantic Guesthouse" is nothing like what I expected it to be. It has a lot of elements that are in some of my favorite sageuks but has a unique balance between being seriously dramatic and comedically lighthearted. The story does take a few emotional turns without ever becoming too heavy. The title definitely doesn't do this drama any justice. Yes, romance is a big part of the story but there are also revenge plots, a tyrant king, a secret rebellion, and some truly great characters. This drama is definitely more about the whole ensemble than one particular couple, and I loved the chemistry between all of the characters as chance and fate brought them all together to become a makeshift family in a random Inn for aspiring scholars.
The owner of Ihwawon Inn is Dan Oh played by Shin Ye Eun. I loved that she is a brave, independent, and outspoken character even though sometimes her antics were frustrating to watch. I also love that the plot wasn't just the usual one girl choosing between 3 suitors trope, as the poster suggests. She really has a unique relationship with each male lead and they have the same unique relationships with each other as well. Ryeoun plays the aloof fighter Kang San who doesn't warm to people too easily, but I loved his smile whenever he did. Jung Gun Joo plays the thoughtful and scholarly Jung Yoo Ha, the most straight-laced of the bunch without being boring. And Kang Hoon plays the silly Kim Shi Yeol who never seems to take anything too seriously, and definitely became my favorite. It was easy for me to really start to care about each of the leads from the beginning, but what I loved most is that none of them were exactly as they seemed and always kept me guessing. With each episode, we learn more about each character's past and motivations, which kept every episode interesting till the very end.
The entire supporting cast is just as great as the leads, although I won't go into too much detail to avoid spoilers. The King and Chief Administer, however, were so irredeemably evil that I loved to root against them, yet even their single-minded goals made me empathize with them during some of their evilest moments. I think that's because the characters were really well written even if they all weren't necessarily complex. None of the characters felt like filler, and no scene felt useless either. There may have been a few minor moments that made me roll my eyes but it all came together and made sense in the end.
Would I watch this again? Definitely. Mostly I would want to watch knowing what I learned about the characters from the beginning. I already rewatched the first episode and certain scenes hit differently once you know how the story will evolve. Maybe some moments will drag watching it for the second time, but I liked the characters so much I would still be entertained.
My only real complaint is that the kiss moments were so disappointing. All the chemistry in the world just feels ruined by dead fish emotionless lip touch where a passionate kiss should be. Ryeoun tried his best to make it sexy, but Shin Ye Eun... just yuck.
Overall, this drama tells a great story and I think it will appeal to people who don't want a historical drama that is too depressing or a romcom that is too silly. This is directed by the director of The Princess's Man, one of my favorite sageuks of all time, so the action scenes are great too... especially the Watchman battles. If you like dramas that will keep you guessing. this one does a great job of always introducing a new and unexpected element even when you think you have it all figured out. I say this as a person who is easily bored by fighting for the crown plots but the pace was great so I didn't have a chance to be bored.
I was sad at the end of 18 episodes to say goodbye to these characters, and that's more than enough for me to recommend this drama. I didn't cry, I don't have any new favorite couples to add to my list, but by the end, I felt like I went on a journey with these characters with them finally living the lives they were meant to and that's the best kind of ending for me.
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