Episode 1 of Lost Romance kicks off with an unknown man in the shower and a voiceover describing him as a cheetah. So, off to an impactful start! A clearly powerful woman is finishing up her war paint. Two women in an office talk about how romance novels often use the same old descriptions of their characters, such as 8 out of 10 novels referring to a male lead as a cheetah – I love the self-deprecating humour already.
They continue to talk about romance novels and the classic scenario of the ‘overbearing CEO’ – one believes it’s old hat while the other says that everyone needs an overbearing CEO.
‘Is there anything more soothing than an overbearing CEO?’ She names a few examples including Christian Gray (50 Shades), Bruce Wayne (Batman), Tony Stark (Iron Man). Can’t deny her list though, even if ‘overbearing’ seems an odd translation. But we get the point.
They laugh a little at a character called Situ Aoran, who’s name means proud and lofty. They note that the romance novel world is becoming a little dull, where it used to ‘comfort the hearts of countless youth.’ Chief Editor Yao approaches – of course, they work at a publishing house.
Back to the two original characters, they’re separately discussing the same issue regarding the state of Tianliang Hospitality and loan repayment to Fugui Bank.
Zheng Xiao’En is the romance novel enthusiast. Her manager, Chief Editor Yao, questions her on book store closings and alternative sales channels. She and colleague Chuntian offer ideas. He also asks to see the cover design for the latest manuscript but rejects it.
The girls go back to their desks complaining about corporate slavery. They decide to take a break and head to an outer stairway with a drone in hand. They send it flying only to spy on a man in a nearby office – the man described in the shower earlier.
Watching, they voiceover an imagined conversation between the man and his colleague – as an overbearing CEO, of course. They postulate that if they worked for him, perhaps they wouldn’t have a crush on him but quickly decide they’d be enamored anyway and that his colleague probably has a crush too.
The same man, He Tianxing, exits the elevator talking about how his father treats him like brick, moved to wherever he’s needed. This conversation seems less fun than what the girls had imagined. As he heads to meet his father, the powerful woman is also on her way to a meeting with her father, the Chairman.
When she arrives, Tianxing is already there. The Chairman grills her about the financials of Tianliang Hospitality. Tianxing matter-of-factly agrees that her company is bringing down other companies with the Tianliang Group.
As the conversation gets heated, brother He Tianjian arrives. He nonchalantly agrees with Tianxing, commenting that none his sister’s businesses succeed anyway. She reacts angrily, of course, and there’s the intimation that Tianxing is a half-sibling. The Chairman adjourns the meeting, siding with Tianxing on shutting down Hospitality.
In the elevator, the Chairman and He Chaqin talk about daughter Mingli’s ambition. They agree that Tianxing is the capable one. Chairman asks He Chaqin to support Tianxing when he’s no longer around. The Chairman then collapses on his way out of the elevator.
They regroup at the hospital – Uncle He Chaquin, the Chairman’s wife, and children Mingli and Tianjian – to discover that the Chairman has had a heart attack. When Tianxing arrives he’s treated coldly and waits outside the room. But when the Chairman wakes, he asks for Tianxing.
After work, Xiao’En bemoans her financial state. She shouts to the sky to please at least give her an overbearing CEO and nearly gets hit by a car. Would it cost her life to make that happen? As she returns to the crossing, another car blazes by, this one with Tianxing in the driver seat.
At the family home, Mingli has a tantrum, coldly indicating there would be no Tianxing if their mother had been a better wife. She claims that once Tianxing takes over the company they’ll all be thrown out, saying their father’s will leaves the company to Tianxing. Tianjian is sceptical.
On the way back from the hospital, Tianxing hears that an emergency board meeting has been called. He realizes immediately that it’s Mingli’s doing. He’s upset about his father, but his colleague presses him to focus and they agree he would likely get 5 out of 9 votes to be chairman.
On a work break, Xiao’En and Chuntian lighten the mood by making fun of romance storylines such as a heroine falling out of a tree and into the arms of her CEO, like magic.
At the board meeting, Mingli trickily manages to prevent some board members from voting and somehow gets Uncle He on her side, gaining the Chairmanship. She threateningly presses Tianxing for their father’s will.
After a chase they end up on the building roof, believing Tianxing has the will on him. In a fight for the document, he’s pushed off the building.
Xiao’En, using the drone, just happens to witness the fall. She debates calling the police as she believes that she’ll be targeted upon revealing the truth. She goes home early, feeling unwell.
Later, there’s a news report saying CEO Tianxing accidentally fell from the building. Mingli has her assistant Qiaozhi seek both the drone she spotted near the roof and any security footage that may exist.
Tianxing survives with extended injuries and is hospitalized. Mingli and Uncle He head out to celebrate her appointment. Outside the hospital room, Tianjian meets employee Ling Chuchu who’s upset about CEO Tianxing’s accident. Tianjian gives her hope that Tianxing will recover.
At home, Xiao’En watches the news and wonders why Tianxing’s incident is being called an accident, especially when she certainly saw something more aggressive. She prays for his recovery.
At work, Xiao’En is selected to represent the office in visiting the chief editor in the hospital. Meanwhile, Mingli insists on moving Tianxing to a private hospital. His assistant objects but there’s no other family to protect him so the staff prepare Tianxing for transfer.
Outside, Xiao’En arrives to visit the chief editor and walks past the unconscious Tianxing. As he reaches out and grabs her arm from his bed, the episode ends.
The Episode Review
Lost Romance is a 2020 Taiwanese Chinese-language subtitled romance drama on Viki. The concept is wonderfully OTT, making fun of itself and the entire romance genre. Lead character and book editor Xiao’En leans on knowledge gleaned from reading 100’s of romance novels, plus some fantastic comedic timing to tell the tale. What if you woke up in your favourite novel? Or any novel? Xiao’En’s a canny survivor.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. In Episode 1, we’re still in the ‘real’ world where Xiao’En and her colleague Chuntian are just trying to make it through the day in their declining industry of book publishing.
Add to that a dramatic sibling scenario between Tianxing, Tianjian and Mingli, and it seems like Lost Romance will be action-packed as worlds collide. How all the pieces of this story are knitted together remains to be seen, but so far the setup is both dramatic and great fun.
Vivian Sung as Xiao’En is snappy and entertaining, delivering her piece with energy. You can find her in other dramas like Proud of Love and Unicorn Girl, both on Viki. Marcus Chang, also in Behind Your Smile and Back to 1989 on Viki, plays the complex, business-focused He Tianxing. He’s respected for his acumen but not wholly accepted by the family – a brick placed where it’s needed. And a scapegoat too, I suspect.
The deadly family combination of He Mingli (Kelly Liao), He Tianjian (Jason Hsu) and Uncle He Chaqin (Zhu Wei Tang) look to be a den of vipers waiting to strike. They don’t wait long. But as Tianxing isn’t dead yet, I’m sure we can anticipate more to come.
This story jumps straight in without a ton of backstory but catches up by cleverly inserting information in the scenes that follow. It’s off to a strong start – can’t wait to see where they take us next. Jiayou!