The Secret Romantic Guesthouse – K-Drama Episode 1 Recap & Review

Episode 1

Episode 1 of The Secret Romantic Guesthouse starts with the royal guards looking for the Crown Prince’s eldest son, Lee Seol who has fled from the royal house. Meanwhile, a young girl, Yoon Dan-oh finds the crown prince’s son hiding in her pet dog’s kennel.

There is a mourning period at Dan-oh’s house after her father’s death. Dan-oh offers the young boy food and manages to protect him from being discovered by the royal guards. Lee Seol thanks Dan-oh for helping him and promises to tell her his name if they are to meet again in the future.

The episode moves 13 years into the future when many scholars are visiting the city to take part in civil exams. Kang San is one of the scholars who seem to be smarter than the rest. He manages to outwit the goons that were trying to loot him and the other scholars as they make their way into the city.

Dan-oh is all grown up now and is running a guesthouse called The Garden of Flowers. She tries to convince the scholars to live in her guesthouse until they appear for the exams but is often beaten by men who belittle her efforts. Since the guesthouse business is male-dominated, one of the owners forces Dan-oh to marry him and keeps following her around.

Meanwhile, Kang San is still running from the guards because he almost beat many up on his way inside the city. Kim Shi-yeol is another scholar who is penniless. He is chased out of Buyounggak Courtesan House for not paying them for his stay over the last few weeks. Shi-yeol runs into Dan-oh, who is being forced by the guesthouse owner.

He helps Dan-oh flee from the old man and his friends and some royal guards find Shi-yeol and arrest him for dining and dashing from one of the other guesthouses. Dan-oh runs into Kang San at a diner and tries to convince him to stay at her guesthouse.

As he tries to flee from the royal guards, Dan-oh takes his belongings with her for safekeeping. The Garden of Flowers only has two other scholars as its guests. Yook Yook-ho is a veteran scholar who knows the answers to all questions by memory but is still not able to pass the civil exams, despite numerous years having passed.

Yook-ho suffers from performance anxiety and is not able to remember the answers during exams. Another guest at The Garden of Flowers is Jung Yoo-ha. Kang San finds himself at the Garden of Flowers guesthouse after the dining house owner tells him that Dan-oh had taken his belongings with her.

There, he manages to catch Dan-oh in his arms as she is facing off a ladder but immediately throws her to the ground when they get too close. Despite being extremely chaotic, Dan-oh is not able to break through Kang San’s icy exterior. Since it is very late that night and all the other inns had closed down, Dan-oh manages to convince Kang San to stay at her guesthouse for that night.

Shi-yeol too arrives at the guesthouse and asks to stay there for free for some time. He claims that he had saved Dan-oh from the men earlier and had gotten caught by the royal guards because of that. Dan-oh agrees to help Shi-yeol stay in the cottage for the night. Dan-oh tells the three young scholars that they were allowed to use all of the guesthouses but had to stay away from the annexe.

The next morning, Dan-oh and her chef – Najoo-daek serve breakfast to the four scholars who live in the guesthouse. Shi-yeol asks about Dan-oh’s father who was a scholar when he was alive and had successfully cracked the civil services exam. The new guests are surprised that a noblewoman like Dan-oh was running an inn.

Yook-jo tells them that after her father’s death, Dan-oh had to make ends meet by using her family home as a guesthouse for scholars. Other than being the owner of the guesthouse, Dan-oh is also the one responsible for cleaning it. She is in Kang San’s room where she finds his wooden sword and decides to play with it.

Kang San finds Dan-oh in his room and asks her to keep out. The two argue about Dan-oh lying to Kang San about the price for one night at the inn. At the same time, Consort Park, the wife of King Lee Chang is pregnant and wants to deliver her baby immediately in order to give the King a son.

The court ladies insist that Consort Park could not deliver a child as she was not in labour. She claims that they all needed to be better prepared to give the king a son if she were to bear a daughter. Meanwhile, the king visits a palmist that tells him that he can’t bear a son.

The palmist also tells King Lee that his future is in danger and asks him to stop looking for the person he was chasing. Lee Chang is triggered by what the man says and asks his royal guard to kill the old man immediately. At the royal palace, Chief Premier, Sin Won-ho meets the king and tells them that they were not able to find Lee Seol even after 13 years.

Won-ho tells the king that Lee Seol was a scholar and presently lived in Hanyang to give the civil services exam. Won-ho talks to his juniors and asks them to be on the lookout for Lee Seol so they don’t lose him again as they did in the past. The royal guards along with Won-ho and the former royal eunuch – No Sung-gil are on the hunt for Lee Seol.

They make it to the Buyounggak Courtesan House where many of the scholars live and Sung-gil tries to help Won-ho identify Lee Seol among the many men there. That night, Shi-yeol grows curious about the annexe at the Garden of Flowers guesthouse and wants to take a look inside. Yook-ho threatens Shi-yeol and stops him from entering the annexe.


The next day, Kang San and Yoo-ha are on their way back from the bookstore when they see a woman being kicked out of Buyounggak Courtesan House. The woman who used to work for Yoo-ha’s family in the past tells him that her husband had taken away their son the previous night after he had gambled a lot of money at the courtesan house.

She is worried that her son was hungry and had been offered to the royal guards in exchange for the money he owed. The scholars offer to help the woman and enter, when they run into Dan-oh and Shi-yeol. Yoo-ha and Kang San pretend to take part in a gambling match with Shi-yeol as Dan-oh watches them.

She asks them to spill what they had been whispering about and Kang-san reveals that a young baby was kept in the courtesan house. The four hatch a plan to individually look for the baby and Dan-oh manages to find the little boy in one of the rooms in the back. She sneaks the baby out but is caught by the guards there.

Kang San helps her flee out while keeping his face hidden from the guards. The four manage to successfully return the baby to his mother and make their way back to the guesthouse. On their way back, Yoo-ha asks why Shi-yeol had Dan-oh chase after him all the way to the courtesan house.

Shi-yeol claims that Yoo-ha was being possessive because of his feelings for Dan-oh. Later that night, several men are thrashing the Garden of Flowers guesthouse. They claim that Dan-oh’s father had borrowed a lot of money from them and it was time for it to be paid back.

Kang San tries to kick the men out but they claim that Dan-oh had to pay them back for them to leave. Meanwhile, the royal guards along with Won-ho and Eunuch Sung-gil are approaching the guesthouse to take a look at the scholars and identify Lee Seol.

The Episode Review

It seems like Kang San is hiding away because of the way he entered the city but it is pretty obvious that he is hiding because he could be Lee Seol. The chemistry between Dan-oh and Kang San is palpable and I have a feeling he could reveal himself to be the crown prince’s oldest son in the future.

The characters in this series are fresh but I really hope the show won’t go on to show how all three scholars are in love with Dan-oh and she has to choose one of these three. It will be fun if we learn that Dan-oh had kept Lee Seol hidden in the annexe for all these years.

With that being said, I really do not understand why Yoo-ha’s character is made to seem like he is curious about sex and keeps reading books that are related to reproduction. Shi-yeol is really a treat to watch on screen because he is effortlessly funny. After seeing Shin Ye-eun play the mean bully in The Glory, it is refreshing seeing her in her chaotic element in this show.

Since this is Kang Hoon’s first drama after Little Women, seeing him in an unserious role is refreshing. I believe that Ryeoun will be the new tsundere Korean actor after Cha Eunwoo because just like his characters in Adult Trainee and 18 Again, Kang Sun played by Ryeoun appears to have an icy exterior with a heart of gold.

Next Episode

Expect a full-season review when the season concludes!

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