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Novel Rec List: Male Lead Grovels before the Main Character


This is a recommendation list of danmei novels containing the trope where the [usually] scum male lead gong begs for forgiveness from the abused main character shou. It’s cliche, and can even be unhealthy, I know, but they’re good tear-jerkers. You can find yourself screaming and cursing at the ML, while crying and wanting to protect the MC.

Most of the novels on this list are found on NovelUpdates. Some, however, don’t have a translation yet, but they’re easy to read through MTL.

Note: Star ratings are based on a novel’s quality on its own, and not in regards to how they’re ranked in the list.

On the other hand, novels are ranked based on:

  • Substance – the weight of the conflict in the relationship between the main couple
  • Coherency, or how every scene ties up together and is not just there for angst’s sake. Pain with a purpose.
  • Reader satisfaction from the male lead “grovelling.” Why else would you be reading this list if not looking for some gratifying slag gong abuse?
  • Plot quality–yes, this comes much later. This is a list about grovelling, not about plot complexity
  • Protagonist’s character development when male lead is gone. I wanna see empowered MC’s.
  • Pay-off quality – How good and satisfied (or leaves you wanting for more) the novel makes you feel after reading

And before we get on with the list, I would like to issue a content warning: Since this a rec list for dog blood abuse novels, expect that most of the novels here contain problematic content. To find out what these are, click on the novel’s title. You will then be led to the novel’s page in NovelUpdates, where you can read the tags to see if it has any triggering content.

Now, without any further ado…

The Promise Sealed with our Lips

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
book cover

Hei Nuo has been unloved his whole life, so he keeps to himself and never dares to ask for anything. But then Shi Yan comes along and drags him out of his shell, exposing Hei Nuo to both warm sunshine and fierce rain.

Short Review

This novel has lots of mixed reviews on NU because of the dub/non-con content in Volume 1. However, this story really is good. If you pay attention to what role each element plays in the overall narrative, instead of judging one scene on its own, then you’ll realize that everything just… fits.

Abuse is never acceptable, but it doesn’t mean it could never happen. In PSWOL, the author explores the effects of different kinds of abuse (verbal, emotional, physical, sexual) all on our protagonist. We get too see him break, see his character tempered and see him come out from it all, alive and stronger. And this is why I stand by this novel, regardless of what others say. Hei Nuo’s character development is really admirable.

And regarding the male lead, Shi Yan, I honestly don’t like him for Hei Nuo. Hei Nuo is too good and deserves someone better. However, I have to admit, the interaction between them is quite interesting, especially in volume 2 when they… [spoiler warning, highlight over dark area to read]:

… start playing mind games with each other. They know each other so well that they could manipulate the other.

Years of Intoxication

Rating: 4 out of 5.
book cover

He Gu has loved Song Juhan for seven years. Even when Song Juhan would sleep around with others, he, like a man intoxicated, has always stayed by his side. Only when Song Juhan puts him through the most unbearable hell does He Gu finally sober up and leave. But this time, Song Juhan won’t let him go.

This novel is by Shui Qian Cheng (水千丞), and the author also has two other novels in this list.

Short Review

Years of Intoxication, or simply Intoxication, as listed on NU, has the most gratifying case of a male lead grovelling for forgiveness in this list. The story is typical dog blood, but the angst is top-notch. Simple knives, but goes straight to the heart.

Song Juhan is a bastard who doesn’t know what love is, while He Gu has too much love to give, all exhausted on someone who doesn’t care. Their romance is definitely not something you’d like to see happen to you, but if you got some pent-up tears and rage, then this is the novel you can read to let it all out. It works even better if you listen to the audio drama.

Mute Slave

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
mute slave manhua image

The mute Shen Yu is sent as a substitute bride to the Northern Garrison Prince, who is infamous for having killed many wives. Shen Yu simply wants to survive, but the inability to speak out his mind only brings him harm as misunderstandings arise between him and the prince.

(aka “Silent Lover” on NU. Image is from its manhua.)

Short Review

You will feel hopelessly frustrated, not with the novel, but with the MC’s situation. Things will get better, but first, MC has to go through different kinds of torment where he, having no voice, can’t fight back at all.

What makes “Mute Slave” stand out among similar palace-disputes novels is that the MC is no mere caged canary that flies away later on. His identity actually plays an active role in the overarching plot, and he becomes way much more even without the ML.

The male lead is not likable at all, but since the author later thrusted him into a situation where he gets to experience the hardships MC experienced, I find him quite tolerable.

The Blind Concubine

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Blind concubine and cat

A blind concubine lives in the cold palace. The blind concubine has a snow white cat. Day after day, year after year, he lives quietly in the courtyard of the cold palace. It is as if he has already been forgotten by the entire imperial palace. Until one day, the young emperor accidentally chances upon him… (Summary from NU)

[Not sure if the image is official art. If it’s fanart, please tell me so I can change it.]

Short Review

This novel is quite simple, having only one definite conflict, yet it executes it to perfection. No scene is superfluous. Its literary way of telling also gets to pack in a lot of slow-killing angst, making for a very emotional experience.

Unlike most novels in this list, MC is unyielding to the very end. This is mainly why the novel is high up in the list. MC may be physically weak, but his mind is firm and his heart is not easily swayed by honeyed words. He knows what is right and stands by it.

Creatures of Habit

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Jiang Yishan and Qin Shaocheng

Jiang Yishan knows how softhearted his ex-boyfriend Qin Shaocheng is towards him, so when his career as a celebrity plummets, he shamelessly begs the man to take him back.

Qin Shaocheng doesn’t want to have anything do with him anymore, but when Jiang Yishan keeps coming at him… He just couldn’t resist.

Short Review

Not really ML grovels before MC, but the other way around. I wasn’t going to include this in the list, but since its main theme is about grovelling, I made an exception.

Creatures of Habit has the drama, the romance, and most of all, the smut 😉. It does great on what it sets out to do, and we can really see Jiang Yishan redeem himself and try to change for the better.

audio drama ending song cover

Creatures of Habit Audio Drama Ending Song

Creatures of Habit has an audio drama on Missevans. Please support it by listening to it. There’s only one episode, but it’s 70 mins long. The ending song is also really good!

Turns Out I’m Crazy

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
book cover

Lu Zhengfei personally killed Chen Qianqing with his abuse. He cut off Chen Qianqing’s legs, and blinded his eyes, locking him up with chains in his house. Then, he watched with his eyes wide as he died. Injuries inflicted in the name of love would always end in a tragedy.

Did Lu Zhengfei regret it? Of course he did. And so, God gave him a chance to be reborn. But this time, he found that he himself—became Chen Qianqing.

Short Review

This one is a… bizarre case of grovelling. Chen Qianqing, the original abused shou, no longer exists when Lu Zhengfei is reborn and takes over his body. So whom could Lu Zhengfei ask forgiveness from? Who will pardon him for his mistakes?

This novel is an absolute psychological ride, questioning Lu Zhengfei’s identity and the purpose of his rebirth. And its message is simply profound–abusers can only ever love themselves. They don’t have the right to say they love someone when they’ve hurt them.

After being in a Relationship with the Slag Gong Substitute, the White Moonlight Came Back

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
book cover

Cheng Jianyu has been with Jiang Yan for five years, acting like the perfect, obedient, little lover. When the five-year time limit was up, he tears off all pretense and leaves, never looking back. It leaves the slag gong Jiang Yan, who’s been slowly falling in love with him, at a loss. And then he finds out that… all this time, Cheng Jianyu has actually been treating him as a substitute?!

This is not yet translated, and its title in Chinese is 我和替身渣攻恋爱后,白月光回来了。 It is written by 倔强海豹。

Short Review

I actually adore Jiang Yan here, even though he’s a bit of a jerk in the beginning. Cheng Jianyu treating him as a substitute is a big blow to Jiang Yan’s pride, but he quickly gets over it and chases after Jianyu.

Cheng Jianyu, on the other hand, is as unmovable as a mountain. At first, it was fun to see Jiang Yan grovelling, but the longer it drags on, the more I find myself rooting for Jiang Yan to find some other person who actually loves him back. [There’s a reason for Cheng Jianyu’s complete indifference though, but it would only be explained much later in the novel.]

Anyways, this is a novel about a man who’s afraid to love again and a man who’s eager to learn how to love. Although the groveling takes up a lot in the story, I wouldn’t call it as a main aspect. It still makes up for an enjoyable read though, and you will, I guarantee, love the ML more than the MC.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
book cover

Mu Ran has always wanted a home.

When he fell in love with Yi Tian, he blackmailed the man into a relationship with him. He thought that so long he treated him nicely, Yi Tian would love him back. But despite all his efforts, Yi Tian remains unmoved… or does he?

Short Review

Here, both characters are scum. It was wrong of MC to threaten ML into a relationship and expect the guy to slowly love him. I can understand why ML acts cold with him, so I’m actually on his side.

However, this story is in Mu Ran’s point of view. You’ll get to see his sad backstory and sympathize with him. And yeah, he really is pitiful… but it still doesn’t make me like him, considering how bland his character is.

The male lead is also a jerk who’d rather keep his pride than just admit he’s fallen in love. It leads to a lot of misunderstandings and a mess of a romance, but… isn’t that what we’re all here for? XD

Like Love, but Not

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
book cover

Xiao Heng commits suicide, and in death, his soul lingers around Luo Yuchen. He watches as Luo Yuchen immediately gets together with Xia Mingxiu, the man’s first love, even though it wasn’t that long ago when Xiao Heng and Luo Yuchen broke up.

Now, Xiao Heng is too tired to hate, and he sincerely wishes happiness for the two of them. But why does it seem like Luo Yuchen and Xia Mingxiu aren’t really happy together?

This novel has two versions: the free unedited version (the one currently being translated by SnowyCodex) and the remastered book version (untranslated, and you’ll have to pay for the later chapters in JJWXC). I will be reviewing the book version, because that’s what I happened to have read.

Short Review

I was drawn in right from the first chapter because of its supernatural aspect, and it kept my interest all throughout the first part (where the story is in Xiao Heng’s POV). I thought back then, “Ah, finally something unique…”

But come part 2 (Luo Yuchen’s POV), it ends up becoming a typical dog blood story. I was expecting more plot and supernatural stuff, because I just love such stories, but nada.

It’s still a good read for slag gong abuse though. Just one thing ticks me off: the portrayal of suicide in this novel is too… cursory. I mean, it’s not at all glamorized, which is a good thing. It also repeatedly emphasizes how living is better than dying…

However, as someone who’s been pulled back from the edge, I can tell that the author is using suicide as a mere device to move the plot. (Heck, the whole story even started from it.) I’m not gonna expound on it here, for I’d like to keep these short reviews at only 2-3 paragraphs. Just please make sure you’re emotionally and mentally okay when reading this.

I’ve finally become what you like

Rating: 4 out of 5.
book cover

Miao Qingyu was able to marry the man of his dreams, Xue Cheng, by imitating what Xue Cheng’s first love was like. All was okay, just okay, for seven years until said first love comes back.

Xue Cheng insists they’re just friends. But when Miao Qingyu sees how differently he treats the other man, he finds it hard to believe.

Another untranslated novel. Chinese title is 我终于变成了你喜欢的样子, and the author is 无边客.

Short Review

This reads like a K-drama, but a god-tier angsty classic one, like Winter Sonata and Spring Waltz… at least, for the latter half of the story. I think only the first half could be considered as typical slag gong dog blood abuse, while the rest is more about healing and second chances.

It’s a mature novel about losing love and finding it, keeping it tightly and never losing it again. Miao Qingyu’s and Xue Cheng’s story is gonna span around fifteen years that, at one point, you’ll feel depressed seeing them always missing each other. You’d wish for the slag gong abuse to finally end, and for Miao Qingyu to be loved as he’d always deserved.

Professional Body Double

Rating: 4 out of 5.
book cover

In his past life, Zhou Xiang was a stuntman for a popular actor. But aside from being a substitute at work, he was also only a substitute of said actor in his relationship with Yan Mingxiu.

Being reborn into someone else’s body, Zhou Xiang just wants to start anew and stay away from Yan Mingxiu. However, the universe seems to be against him as he finds himself once again inevitably entangled with Yan Mingxiu.

This is by Shui Qian Cheng, the same author as the aforementioned Years of Intoxication, so you can see a lot of similarities between them in structure and style. In terms of plot, I actually find this more interesting than Years of Intoxication because of the supernatural aspect. (I just loooove supernatural stories.)

Short Review

One reason this novel ranks much lower than Years of Intoxication is because the main conflict is rendered superficial with a truth that was revealed later in the story. Some readers may disagree with me on this, but I honestly think that the whole drama could’ve been avoided if nothing was ever concealed from the beginning. Realizing this makes me feel like I’ve been duped.

Another reason for the low rank is that Zhou Xiang’s choices in his second life are really infuriating. Although the drama and tension it ensues would keep you at the edge of your seats, it would also make you want to pull out all the hair in your head. The gong abuse is also mild in this one, and Yan Mingxiu deserves to be punished more.

Gaze at the Scenes of Debauchery

Rating: 4 out of 5.
book cover

They’ve been entangled together for 12 years. A gong whose affairs had become second nature, and a shou who was depressed and liked to torment himself. Cracks cannot be mended, one can only intentionally choose to either ignore or endure it. (Summary from NU)

Short Review

This one is a tragedy. The plot is okay; the narrative, well-written, but I just couldn’t handle how heavy and depressing it is. [Warning: Major spoilers up ahead.]

I couldn’t accept how Wen Qing had to die first before Yan Han learned his lesson. It’s too cruel (for Wen Qing). He shouldn’t have had to pay with his life just to make the other person understand–I mean, I know he didn’t die specifically to punish Yan Han, but it’s just so… depressing.

However, I do appreciate how well the author handled the suicide in this story.

For people with mental health illnesses, I advise you to not read this, especially if you’re on a down episode. It captures so well how a person deteriorates that it’s frightening.

The Ten Years that I Loved You the Most

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
manhua cover

(aka The Decade of Deep Love)

He Zhishu and Jiang Wenxu has been together since high school. They married and made oaths of forever to each other. Jiang Wenxu, however, derailed later on. He Zhishu silently endures the pain for years until his sick body finally makes him surrender.

Short Review

Another tragic novel. There is no pay-off, no redemption, and no second chances. There is only pain and hopelessness. Slag gong gets the abuse he deserves, but I don’t think it was enough.

This novel is at around the same level with the one above. The only difference is that it doesn’t read as dark and heavy towards the end.

How to Deal with a Tsundere Gong

Rating: 3 out of 5.
book cover

Xu Bai Chuan has loved Tang Jin since childhood, but the latter has always had a different person in his heart. Back when Tang Jin had to come out to his parents, Xu Bai Chuan had agreed to pretend to be his lover, shielding the real lover from scorn and discrimination.

Tang Jin’s parents couldn’t do anything about his sexuality, so they thought of of using Xu Bai Chuan to keep him in check instead. Because of this, Tang Jin and his friends loathed Xu Bai Chuan. For years, Xu Bai Chuan had to endure being humiliated by Tang Jin’s friends. And when Tang Jin’s first love returned, he knew it was time for him to stop holding on.

Short Review

Wew… that summary is a bit longer than the others. The story is not at all complex though. In fact, the root source of all the problems in the main cp’s relationship is actually quite stupid. Hence, its low rank on this list.

It has some good grovelling, albeit not as interesting as the rest in this list. I can understand Tang Jin treating Xu Bai Chuan badly in the beginning, but after years of love and care from the other, and knowing that Xu Bai Chuan has been sincere all along, how could he still bear to treat the man like shit for a whole seven years?

Xu Bai Chuan should have left even earlier, and Tang Jin should have no right to stop him.

Love, Expired

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
book cover

Another story where the MC blackmails ML into a relationship, then hopes the latter would slowly learn to love him… Seriously, what is wrong with these MC’s?

Zhou Hao has always treated Jiang Yuqian like family, but the other person never cared and even sent him to hell. When they separated, Zhou Hao learned to love himself more and open up to others. And Jiang Yuqian, seeing Zhou Hao move on, realizes the man may have actually meant more to him.

Short Review

This novel is just… sad. Zhou Hao had finally learned to be happy without Jiang Yuqian, but then the man conspires to ruin everything, locking him back to his side. I don’t have much to say about this story, since it’s pretty generic, but it’s one of those stories that make you feel so drained after reading

Beloved Enemy

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
book cover

Gu Qingpei’s first job at his new post was to help his boss raise his son!

Yuan Yang is a hot-tempered and a rebellious young man, but Gu Qingpei has the confidence that he can make him bow down and submit.

[Another dog-blood abuse novel by Shui Qian Cheng]

Short Review

This had a good start, with all the interesting power play involved between Gu Qingpei and Yuan Yang. But later on, it was just… icky, at least, for me.

I honestly think Gu Qingpei and Yuan Yang are not that suited for each other. Yuan Yang becomes obsessed with Gu Qingpei, but the other person, at times, cares more about his reputation than his lover. And since Gu Qingpei is years older than Yuan Yang, he often looks down on the latter, as if he were a child making immature decisions.

But then again, Yuan Yang did r*pe and humiliate Gu Qingpei… so why the heck are they even together in the first place? I also hate how this story fetishizes r*pe, especially in the end.

And so, that concludes our list! I may add more novels here if I find more about grovelling / slag gong abuse.

This article is written by Lizonka. If you enjoyed reading this and would like to see more, you may support her by buying her a coffee

6 thoughts on “Novel Rec List: Male Lead Grovels before the Main Character Leave a comment

  1. Wow, our taste is very similar. Some of the ones you listed are in my top 10 favorite BL novels. I’m a sucker for angsty novels. The few that have not been translated are ones I haven’t heard of so now I want to see it so hopefully someone will pick them up. Thanks for the list!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aah, I plan to translate the first few chapters of those as teasers so that other translators can find them and hopefully pick them up \( ̄︶ ̄*\))


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