His Quiet Agent

His Quiet Agent - Ada Maria Soto
Editions:Kindle: $ 3.99
Pages: 156
Paperback - Second: $ 9.99
ISBN: 978-0473416201
Pages: 125

Arthur Drams works for a secret government security agency, but all he really does is spend his days in a cubical writing reports no one reads. After getting another “lateral promotion” by a supervisor who barely remembers his name, it’s suggested that Arthur try to ‘make friends’ and ‘get noticed’ in order to move up the ladder. It’s like high school all over again: his attempts to be friendly come across as awkward and creepy, and no one wants to sit at the same table with him at lunch.

In a last-ditch attempt to be seen as friendly and outgoing, he decides to make friends with The Alien, aka Agent Martin Grove, known for his strange eating habits, unusual reading choices, and the fact that no one has spoken to him in three years.

Starting with a short, surprisingly interesting conversation on sociology books, Arthur slowly begins to chip away at The Alien’s walls using home-cooked meals to lure the secretive agent out of his abrasive shell. Except Martin just might be something closer to an actual secret agent than paper-pusher Arthur is, and it might be more than hearts at risk when something more than friendship begins to develop.

This book is on:
  • 4 To Be Read lists
  • 1 Read list
Excerpt:

IT HAD been a long time since Arthur had anyone to cook for. Even then, most of that cooking had been done in Hanh's restaurant under the sharp eyes of his sisters before he left home for good.
He'd impressed a few guys and even a couple of girls in college by putting together non-instant meals using little more than a two-burner hotplate in his dorm room. But those relationships had never lasted long. He'd always had grand ideas of meetings of minds or souls, someone who fit grandly into the empty places of his heart, but that dream never materialized. The sex, what there was, always felt flat and mechanical, never spurring him on to something deeper.
There had been some dates, once he joined the Agency, but having to lie about his work put early strain on possible relationships before he ever got to 'come back to my place and let me cook.’
But now he had someone to cook for. Sort of.

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He had someone to bring very small portions of lite foods, during lunch, so whatever he made had to be small, portable, and maintain quality after sitting in a lunch box for five hours.
He made sandwiches, cut down to fancy party hors d'oeuvre size on Tuesday. He also brought his own book; Walden and Civil Disobedience which had been on his ‘to read’ list for a decade. On Wednesday, he pushed a little too far with a slice of sticky rice cake. Martin took a bite. There was a slight tightening around his eyes and he didn't finish the rest. Arthur supposed it was an acquired taste.
By Friday he was halfway through Walden, had probably gotten close to a thousand extra calories into Martin, along with fresh vitamins and minerals, and aside from telling him what each thing was, they hadn't spoken a word.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Amber on Love Bytes Reviews wrote:

Ok, I was worried. I’ll admit it. I’m a horn dog, I’ll admit that too. So, when I read the authors warning to readers about this story having ZERO heat, I hesitated. For days. But I just kept thinking about the blurb and how unique it sounded. A “Secret Special Agent” book that doesn’t have the characters risking life and limb in harrowing action sequences every other chapter? Not that I don’t love those because I do, I really really do. But this blurb had all the intrigue I needed to make me really, really interested. I’m so glad I listen to my inner self because this story was damn good. DAMN GOOD. I’ll confirm, there is no sex in this story. None at all…..there’s not even a kiss so you’ve been warned. But what this author was able to build between these men, while leaving out the physical stuff, blows my mind. There are so many instances of “OMG, wow…” between Arthur and Martin and those “wow” moments made up for anything else I thought I needed.

After a lateral promotion Arthur finds himself on a new floor, surrounded by new faces with strict orders to be friendly and open. While trying to win people over Arthur finds himself intrigued by his cube neighbor Martin Groves, Martin rarely talks, or eats, and never socializes. Immediately Arthur wants to know more about him, he wants to spend time with him, take care of him, and be his friend.

I can’t say enough about how amazing this story unfolded. I loved Arthur, his crazy, dysfunctional, loving family. I loved Martin and all his secrets and odd mannerisms and behaviors. I loved the children from the library.

This book is one secret after another to uncover so I don’t want to give too much away. This book is so different from anything I’ve read and I love that. This story is beautiful and painful and hopeful and so many wonderful things.

What a beautiful love story this was.

RECOMMEND.

Annie on From Top To Bottom Rewiews wrote:

I hadn’t actually planned to review this on the blog when I picked it up. This was supposed to be an “in-between” book before I read another review copy. Not sure if it’s only me but sometimes I need books in between where I can just read, and not try to remember everything I want to mention in my review.
But then this wasn’t just the nice read I expected: no this one went straight for the heart. If the author ever decides to put this out in paperback or audio I will be the first in line to buy it, because oh my god you guys I *loooove* this book. “Love” can’t encompass all the feelings I have for it – there needs to be a bigger word. Something to voice how special this book is to me.

Both characters are quiet and prefer to keep to themselves. Arthur so much that when he asks for a promotion his supervisor has to look at the photo in his file to know who he is. Arthur gets his work done, but he’s not a big fan of socializing and is uncomfortable meeting new people. So when he’s moved to a different floor – same position though – he vows that the next time he will be remembered.
During his lunch breaks he has time to meet and get to know his coworkers and one day he shares the table with Martin. Martin doesn’t speak a word and only reads his book. Over time they bond over the books and food until out of friendship becomes love – to me there is nothing better than that. I loved their interactions and was looking forward to Arthur’s lunch breaks at least as much as he was.

Martin stays an enigma for the better part of the book, only slowly revealing things to Arthur – and the reader as well. While I think I have a pretty good idea of who Martin is, I feel like the author could easily add a sequel and it wouldn’t feel redundant.

This book probably has the most beautiful “I love you” scene I’ve ever read without using the actual words. I think my heart might have burst a bit because of happiness and love when I read that. His Quiet Agent is such a gentle, beautifully awkward and lovely story; it didn’t let me go long after I had read the last page.

There is so much to the story I can’t tell you because I don’t want to spoil it all – it’s truly, truly special. I adored the way both of them got to know each other, how Arthur slowly but surely weaseled his way into Martin’s heart – Martin who is even more quiet and reserved than Arthur. Both characters are ace-spec. Arthur ID’s as demisexual on page; and while Martin’s sexuality is never discussed on page I assume he’s somewhere on the asexual spectrum as well. I can’t tell you how much I loved to see two asexual characters in a romance.
I really I loved how they both fell in love with each other. So pure and innocent and always that bit of awkwardness that’s just so human and made them all the more endearing. (Sorry, I’ve officially entered the stage “gushing” in this review. Although I’m not really sorry. I really hope that whoever you are reading this, decide to pick this book up.)

Despite the short length, this was a really well-rounded story with awesomely fleshed-out characters and side characters.
Of course it focuses on Arthur and Martin, but we also get a good (or maybe not so good ;)) impression of Arthur’s family. This made me connect with Arthur even more because, even though my family is not like that (thankfully), our relationships are probably just as complicted. I really enjoyed to see more of his background. I think it was quite helpful to get a better feel for who Arthur is and what shaped him.

At the end there are still unanswered questions, mostly things we’ll probably never find out given the nature of their jobs as secret agents for an unknown agency, but I really hope that this was not the last we’ve seen of these two. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a sequel!

His Quiet Agent is one of those books I wish everyone would read and really, this review is not enough to tell you how much I adore this book. It was everything I needed and I was sad when it was over, because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Martin and Arthur – though I probably never would.

Annery on Boy Meets Boy Reviews wrote:

The most mundane things can change your life. For Arthur Drams, a mid-level analyst at “The Agency”, it’s wondering if the ficus trees at his job are real or plastic. After four years Arthur feels a promotion is due, along with better plants, so he requests one. What he gets is a lateral move to a higher floor but in the same position largely because he’s a bit of an invisible man at work. No one knows him. But all that is about to change.

This book has zero sex, no extended conversations about feelings or people being struck by Eros or Cupid’s Arrow, what touching there is could be termed accidental or even clinical, there’s no on page action, or even intrigue and yet … it’s perhaps one of the most romantic and emotionally satisfying books I’ve read in a long time. I liked it so much I read it twice. This is a first installment *fingers crossed* in the story of a relationship between Martin Groves, who is possibly ace, and Arthur Drams who begins to identify himself as demi. Ultimately Arthur’s friend Carol puts it best:

“... no one ever said you have to define yourself. I mean, some people feel better with a definitive definition, others don’t. You’re you, first and foremost, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

Ada Maria Soto is a ‘new to me’ author and one who I’ll be eager to follow.

The story is told from Arthur’s P.O.V. and what a great head to be in. Arthur is funny and self conscious but also brave in all the ways that really matter. He has a family background which I won’t go into but that did touch very close to the bone for and thus endeared me to him and I immediately knew that appearances to the contrary he was no shrinking violet but rather a male version of a steel magnolia. Coming from a family that can best be described as complicated Arthur has learned to compartmentalize, keep secrets and make-do which comes in handy when he meets Martin Grove, a colleague on his new floor. His person.

Martin is a mystery wrapped in an enigma inside a safe stored in an arctic underground bunker. At work he is known as The Alien. He speaks to no one and in turn no one knows him. By the end of the book you could say that patient and resourceful Arthur has thawed him out without ever violating Martin’s trust or crossing any lines. Impressive.

After working for over two months in his new department and trying to make friends or at least acquaintances with varying levels of success Arthur strikes up a what could generously be called a relationship with Martin which consists of sitting at the same lunch table. Martin reading and Arthur having his lunch, offering some food and watching Martin:

“It would often be in silence, but Martin never told him to leave. On ‘conversation’ days he could get maybe four sentences back and forth (not counting the offers of food), on whatever Martin was reading.”

All this changes when Martin has a health crisis which allows Arthur to become more intimately involved in his life and later when Arthur needs it Martin has a chance to reciprocate. The relationship evolves to the point that the two are sharing social time outside of work and though prickly Martin continues to be a coiled cypher the reader wants to unravel, Arthur and Martin form a meaningful connection. Martin is decidedly less overt in expressing his emotions but they are there to be seen in his actions.

These aren’t people prone to grand declarations, particularly so Martin, so when he approaches Arthur and does this I had palpitations and almost swooned because it’s more affecting than the much bandied “I love you”:

“... he raised his hand and touched his fingers to his forehead. “I can give you this.” He lowered his hand and pressed the tips of his fingers to the center of his chest. “And I can give you this. But not the rest. It’s not who I am. Or what I am.”

I don’t want to say much more because Ada Maria Soto has done an excellent job of deftly and elegantly telling a different kind of love story, one I was completely drawn to and 100% invested in. I’m eagerly awaiting a second installment which will hopefully delve into the evolving relationship between Arthur and Martin and hopefully Martin’s past. Unless it turns out that Ms. Soto is a delicious sadist in which case we have just enough story to let our imagination fill in the blanks and dream these two into a beautiful HEA. In a few short pages she has managed to make Martin a man of mystery akin to James Bond without all the extraneous nonsense and bring Arthur to life as a full fledged individual and she does so in ingenious ways: Arthur’s love for cooking and where it comes from which leads to his family history and even touches on his past relationships, how he uses food and the cooking of it as a place for peace but also as a way of talking to Martin when words are too dangerous or not adequate. Perfect. Just perfect. Also the food descriptions left me craving some Vietnamese spring rolls. I may try my hand at them or more likely just go to a Vietnamese restaurant.

Another big plus is Carol, Arthur’s friend from work, who brings levity with her caustic sense of humor. Here she is describing Arthur’s courtship of Martin:

“IT’S LIKE a weird version of that scene in Lady and the Tramp where he’s shoving the last meatball at her.” “I doubt he’d appreciate that analogy,” Arthur told Carol as they both stirred their coffee. “Unless you two spend an hour on the phone chatting each night, I doubt he’s said more than two hundred words to you.” There is more than one way to communicate,” he stated, Carol hitting uncomfortably close to the truth. “I’m sure there’s a culture somewhere where silently shoving finger food at someone is an acceptable form of courting. Hobbits maybe.”

Those who are questioning what love is and what should it look like particularly in a society where we are continuously bombarded with certain images from films, IG, books, music etc. about what is sexy or desirable here’s proof that there are other ways to be and love that are just as valid and satisfying and Arthur and Martin are on their way to finding it.

“Better than a fumbled kiss or faked affection. It was strong and true. And it was theirs.”

I’d recommend this book to everyone. And as for those ficus trees, what is the difference between the real and the plastic? They look the same to the point of being indistinguishable. So what does it matter? Maybe there is no distinction. They are the same.

*Suggested listening: “Something Just Like This” by The Chainsmokers & Coldplay*