Guest Review: His Quiet Agent by Ada Maria Soto

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. 

Please note this book has a Heat Rating of zero.

Guest Reviewer - Annery

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*

A review copy was provided.


  1. I loved this book. And the shoving finger foods line was definitely my favourite. I hope you're right about a sequel.

    1. Glad you liked it. I'm almost praying for a sequel.