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The Agency #1

His Quiet Agent

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Arthur Drams works for a secret government security agency, but all he really does is spend his days in a cubicle 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.

130 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 27, 2017

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About the author

Ada Maria Soto

18 books244 followers
A psychologist once told Ada Maria Soto that she has a fantasy prone personality. Fortunately, Ada grew up to become an author, so a life lived deep in her imagination fits her perfectly. As a Mexican-American expat living in the South Pacific with her partner and kid, her life is chaotically divided between being a writer, a publisher, and a parent.

Dysgraphia, phonological dyslexia, and ADHD makes for some exciting editing, but Ada continues to push through with a writing career. She’s a veteran of the theatre and television business, as well as all the lousy jobs that come with two liberal arts degrees.

Ada’s ability to capture the complex inner life of her characters in moving, yet relatable, ways endears readers to her unforgettable characters. Whether writing hot, spicy erotica or “tame” romances about asexual characters, she creates stories that readers return to again and again.

When not buried under manuscripts, Ada is a sports fan dedicated to the Oakland A’s, Auckland Blues, USA Eagles, and New Zealand Black Caps.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 393 reviews
Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews150k followers
August 18, 2022
His Quiet Agent is escape literature at its finest, and I mean that in the very best sense.

Everything about this story—which I devoured in one quick ravenous bite, all thoughts of the world put aside—clutched at my heart. It’s tender and kind and patient and wonderful, and the bulk of its themes are, to an overwhelming extent, loving, joyful, and deeply compassionate. It’s a story about two explosively, devastatingly lonely men who looked at each other and saw wreckage—and didn’t turn away. Instead, they sought their way amid the ruins of each other, bent down, and slowly, delicately, built a fragile bridge of pure trust and wonder between them.

The blossoming of Arthur and Martin's relationship is its own fierce joy: the sheer comfort of being seen and acknowledged and memorized like a poem, the secret love that exists in a cooked meal, in a duplicate key, the kindness of having someone wait for you to find your small, flinching words instead of filling your silences and absences with an assumption of you. Just the magic of possibility, of far horizons and belonging, where there used to be naught but emptiness.

The only criticism I can sensibly level is that I wish this book were longer; I would have gladly spent a hundred more pages with Arthur and Martin. A highly recommended indulgence!
Profile Image for Shile (Hazard's Version) semi-hiatus.
1,067 reviews747 followers
September 11, 2020
Audiobook - 3 stars

Story - 4.25 stars

Short and sweet story between a demisexual Mc and an asexual Mc. It was unexpected and very romantic. Arthur and Martin had some sweet awkward chemistry.

Our main narrator is Arthur, He is awkward, funny, intelligent and so sweet.

I enjoyed the writing. The story progressed so well, it was a slow burn, i liked that the author was able to tell so much in few pages. I loved Arthur's family tales. He had me loling hard. I wish there was more about Martin.

Overall, it was more enjoyable than i expected.
Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 72 books2,481 followers
November 9, 2017
This is a book about two closed-off men finding another mind and heart that speaks to their own. Although there is an asexual character (and probably a demisexual one) that aspect is not what drives the narrative. There is so much else that these guys have to do, to unpack their pasts and fears and personal isolations, that the issue of sex is almost a coda, a sideline in the slow dance of coming together. Except that in much of society, especially for men, sexual attraction is a short-cut and a driver for intimacy. Taking that away changes the process.

Arthur works as an analyst for an intelligence Agency, and he's a man so quiet and unremarkable his own superiors sometimes forget who he is. After another lateral move to a new floor, he's determined to try to stand out somehow. So he goes about making friends in the cafeteria, in that excruciating process of "Is this seat taken?" It doesn't go terribly, but it also doesn't go well. And along the way, he ends up finally sitting with the silent guy in the next cubicle. A guy who eats only apple slices for lunch, despite his thinness. A guy who devours huge, weighty books as fast as he can turn the pages. A guy who seems supremely uninterested in Arthur, except, except...

A lovely, quiet, understated story about complicated people. The end is sweet and warm and yet leaves a lot of mystery. You have the feeling these guys will be discovering each other for decades to come, and yet the most essential parts have been said. Now I have to go see what else this author has written.
Profile Image for Annery.
924 reviews119 followers
May 9, 2021
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 me 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 not 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. Stoto 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 knight, 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 soundtrack

I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Ami.
5,750 reviews501 followers
August 29, 2017
3.75 stars rounded up

I thought this was different -- and because I've read over 1500 MM titles over the years, different is GOOD .

In an unnamed government Agency, Arthur -- who just gets another lateral promotion after four years because his supervisor doesn't remember him at all -- is determined THIS TIME to make himself known in his new-yet-old position as 2nd level analyst on the fifth floor. He sure gets it when he is able to somehow befriends Martin, a quiet, detached agent, whom everybody calls "Alien".

I LOVED this relationship. I loved how Arthur is able to slowly but surely chips away the walls surrounding Martin. That he can see past the strange and quirky habits of Martin, with a rather cute way of courting -- as in sharing his lunch with Martin.

This is a story about connecting with other human being without entering a sexual situation. In fact, there are cues in the story that both of these characters are in the asexual spectrum, with Martin probably being sex repulsive. But like I said, it made it different, it made itself memorable for me in the long run. It will set itself apart from other stories I read (and will read).

The ending is a rather tentative HFN. There are some questions that have yet answered, especially regarding Martin's family background. Arthur might known him better than the rest of his colleagues and Martin definitely lets Arthur in ... but in a way, Martin is still a mysterious character for me. But that's okay, I will interpret their future in the way I like it.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 56 books7,646 followers
August 16, 2021
Endearing novella, so slow-burn as to be no-burn, about two agents mostly doing admin work and falling very slowly and delicately in love. Asexual romance, which is rare and lovely, and the romance develops perfectly well without.

One thing: the asexual guy Martin (whose POV we don't have) is presented as a pretty weird person--doesn't have normal reactions, shows very little emotion, is called the Alien at work--which is something of a negative asexual stereotype. In and of itself, it's a loving portrait of a very introverted/repressed man who doesn't trust easily and is probably on the spectrum, but I don't know enough to judge how well this works in the wider context of asexual rep.
Profile Image for Laura.
1,351 reviews199 followers
December 29, 2021

Wow! Where the hell has this book been hiding? His Quiet Agent by Ada Maria Soto just shot to the top of my favorites list in a big way.

Communication can take so many different forms. From bellows and strong handshakes to silent nods and eye winks. Big or small, loud or quiet every connection we make in this world has the potential to change our lives and hearts forever. It only took one “Hi, can I sit here?” for Arthur Drams to find that out.

Agents Arthur Drams and Martin Grove are two quiet, lonely, socially awkward personalities, who work for a secret Agency filled with routine, boredom, and well…secrets. Arthur is the new guy on the floor trying to find a way to make friends and hopefully stand out enough to get a promotion. Martin, on the other hand, is definitely known around the Agency. He’s the weird guy everyone calls “the Alien”. He’s the guy no one talks to and vice versa. For three years! No one has heard him say a word. Until Arthur walks in and asks to sit down. From then on, this kind of awkward, fun, warm energy is shared between them over lunch. Arthur looks forward to making Martin speak or smile or hell—just nod. Haha...It makes his whole day. They spend their quiet lunches sharing silence and books. But eventually Arthur chips away at Martin’s cold, always suited up exterior. They begin to share so much more at work and out.

“Martin was still very much a mystery. He’d known more about the lives and background of casual acquaintances than he knew about Martin Grove, but those little slivers were something Arthur was coming to treasure. Not the information, but the trust that came with it.”

I adored the way these two men “spoke” to each other. They opened up and shared in their own often hilarious, sometimes sad way. I loved every twitch, blink, and tilt of the head! I don’t even know how it happened, but the emotion and intimacy just built and built between them. There is no sex here, but the sense of togetherness was such a powerful pull and energy on the page. Their stillness and energy made me smile, smirk, and hope for them all the way through.

“Head and heart. He’d take them if offered and he’d give them in return. He already had.”

I am so happy this story found me! His Quiet Agent is a unique, oh-so quiet, little love story about communication and connection. A story I know I’ll be re-visiting again and again to see and experience every nod, chuckle, and flicker of emotion all over again. You might have noticed I didn’t tell you much about their jobs or personal lives, but I can’t spill any secrets. They are Secret Agents after all. :)

I will be reading more from Ada Maria Soto very soon.

Highly recommended.

Re-read 12/29/21:
I love everything about this book.
Profile Image for Sofia.
1,124 reviews189 followers
August 23, 2017

Who would have known, my first Soto turning into such a QUIET GOOD READ. Very happy to have found this book and have great hopes for my other Sotos.

She crafted this little novel very well. She fitted in a good story with great characters and what is left out is cleverly written in as part of the story. It's one of those stories with people who continue living on in my head.

Profile Image for Skye Kilaen.
Author 14 books291 followers
August 31, 2019
Emotionally delicate in the best way, powerful storytelling, nerdy secret agents with hearts of gold, both main characters are on the asexual spectrum, more than one round of hurt-comfort, and I have no idea why I waited so long to read this M/M romance! Instant all-time favorite.

Agent Arthur Drams, an office-based analyst, needs to socialize in order to advance in his career. Because reasons, he ends up focused on the only analyst more socially un-engaged than he is: Agent Martin Grove, who literally does not speak to anyone else. Arthur coaxes Martin out of his shell by talking about obscure books and semi-surreptitiously feeding him home-cooked meals. Martin responds by kinda messing with Arthur (the library thing, hahaha!), but there's also growing trust between them. The story took me by surprise, though. Just when I thought everything was settling down nicely, something very bad happens! And voicemails are left, which are so painful, I literally teared up. Don't worry, though, reader, it's okay.

I loved how Soto gave us only the barest brushstrokes for some parts of Martin's life and past, but they're the brushstrokes that really matter. I loved how Arthur and Martin's relationship was so uniquely theirs. I love how Arthur was able to meet Martin exactly where he was, and how Martin jumped in to support Arthur when he really needed it. Gorgeous book. I read the library's e-copy and then bought myself one to keep.

Diversity note: Soto is Mexican-American. She has dysgraphia and phonological dyslexia.
Profile Image for Snjez.
698 reviews324 followers
January 27, 2020
Sweet and romantic. I liked Arthur, but found it hard to connect to Martin. I wish there was more of his backstory.
Profile Image for Elena.
823 reviews80 followers
June 16, 2022
I usually avoid books with asexual characters like the plague, because I don’t trust authors to not depict those characters as somehow defective or traumatized people who finally learn to appreciate sex once they meet the right person.

There’s a very personal reason for my reluctance and it has little to do with authors. I’m sure there are many out there capable and willing to write a good story without erasing asexuality or making it seem like a phase or a psychological problem, and this book is proof of that.
I’m cautious, though, because I’ve found out only relatively recently that I fall somewhere on the ace spectrum. Still working on where precisely, but that’s not the point.
The relevant thing is that I can’t even begin to describe the huge relief I’ve felt when I discovered there was actually a term for how I feel and what I am and that I’m not the only person in the entire world feeling like this.
Before that moment, I spent many years thinking that there was something wrong, or at the very least really different, with me and now I’m wary of reading romances with ace characters, because I know that for non-asexual authors it can be difficult to understand and represent asexuality without doing it wrong and hurting real people in the process.

I made this long, and probably unnecessary, premise to say that I’m glad I took a chance on this book.

It took me some time to warm up to the story, but once I did, I loved how the romance between Arthur and Martin was developed.
Little by little Arthur uncovers details of Martin’s personality, managing to get close to “the Alien”, as Martin is known at their office. Martin may be the biggest mystery, but I found as much interesting to learn about Arthur’s family and his past and how Arthur learned something new about himself by getting closer to Martin.

There’s no sex in this book, look elsewhere if that’s what you’re looking for, and the feelings are perhaps expressed differently than in most romances, but they’re not any less deep, real and sweet because of that.
Profile Image for annob.
494 reviews60 followers
January 22, 2020
This is the third author I've read who've gone for an ace MC as their main love interest, and it won't be my last for sure.

Secret agent Arthur starts to work at a new department and strike up an unlikely friendship with silent loner Martin. At first simply sitting together at lunch but slowly growing closer.

There wasn't even a kiss in this book, and yet the romantic relationship arc was swoon worthy. I loved to see these two lone wolves find that significant other person that fit them just right. This is why I'm perpetually drawn to romance novels. I also loved the slow burn / slow progression / gradual revealing of personal details that suited the story perfectly. I'm happy knowing they've found each other but I wouldn't mind reading a sequel with the same pair a year or so down the line, because the ending arrived a bit abrupt.
Profile Image for Zuzu.
1,009 reviews29 followers
July 7, 2017
7/7/17 - Just as wonderful the 2nd time. Love this story.


6/4/17 - A rare 5 stars from me

THIS BOOK. Heed the blurb which says "heat rating of zero" - then TOTALLY DISREGARD it. This book is extremely romantic but in a way I've never read before.

Two "weird" outcasts find their version of love. I can't recommend this book enough.
Profile Image for Danny Tyran.
Author 21 books182 followers
June 18, 2018
At the beginning of this short novel, I thought Martin / Merlin was autistic or traumatized and suffering from PTSD (see Arthur's comment about Martin cleaning his mother's kitchen and the carpet so well vacuumed that “the fibers were all going the same direction”) or a combination of both. But he turned out to be asexual and traumatized (he said, “Everyone is dangerous.”). This is not the kind of personality that is usually found in a romance and that Martin doesn't communicate so to speak (no pun intended), either orally or nonverbally, doesn't make him easily approachable. But Arthur is patient and understanding, and he needs to feel appreciated. He discovers little by little Martin and slowly becomes fond of him in spite of his silence, and we do too at the same time.

The author has been so good at distilling information about Martin and his behavior shift that each new discovery makes him feel closer and more interesting. She was able to keep most of the information for the ending, which allowed to keep some mystery throughout the novel. The use of children to make Martin look friendlier was a bit easy, but considering what Martin reads to them, it removes some of the banality of this choice. That he teaches them old English made me smile.

I finished the novel all at once, unable to drop it after Martin's disappearance. Which is usually a good sign.

It is well written, there is a certain amount of humor, a little angst and a lot of tenderness. The author warned us that her book has a "Heat Rating of zero", but I found this novel very heartwarming. I will certainly read other books by this author. So I give 4½ stars to this romance, I round it to 5 for the pleasure it gave me.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for LenaRibka.
1,411 reviews414 followers
October 27, 2018

The term of being a demisexual is as understandable for me as the origin of the universe.

I would have lied if I had said that I was happy about the lack of testosterone between the MCs.

But...damn...they seemed to be really happy with their sexuality or, better to say, the absence of it. And also they were convincing with their way of living. Even if I, honestly, would rather see Martin as a secret saver of the world than a simple kid's library hero but DAMN, the whole story-line was sooooooooo...charming...and convincing in somewhat peculiar way. I am still wondering how it was possible to create so much love and tension between those two without a single sex scene...

It was tender, it was beautiful, emotional and heart-warming. I really loved it.

181 reviews39 followers
April 15, 2021
This book is weird, deliciously and proudly weird. As a reader, I have to accept the strange behaviour of the two MCs. Then it becomes a sweet & cute book. One that gave me a small hangover, even if there isn't any sex, or even a kiss in this book.

Another plus point is the featuring of Vietnamese food, phở, gỏi cuốn, giò lụa, bò tái chanh,... It adds flavors and colors to the story.

Read this book if you love unique, memorable (nerdy) characters, platonic yet sweet romance, quiet, subtle writing, and Vietnamese food.
Profile Image for Alison.
739 reviews30 followers
October 29, 2022
I just re-read it over five years later and still loved it!
So wonderful. This novella really grabbed a hold of me and I absolutely loved it. It was very much an impulse buy and I'm so glad I picked this up without really thinking about it because it's delightful and charming and romantic and made me really happy. This is a wonderful love story where two fairly quiet, awkward, ace-ish people find each other and it's a beautiful thing. The romance genre is full of characters who are charming and extroverted and smooth-talking and good at witty banter and really keen on sex, which is all well and good, but it's so fantastic to read about people who aren't any of those things. These two lovely characters are both a bit quiet and don't always know the right thing to say and are a little awkward and aren't very social and aren't all that interested in sex and it's awesome and real and incredibly refreshing to read. This book was a wonderful surprise and I'm so fond of it. It's not perfect, but it's different and special and I loved it.
Profile Image for Annie ~ Queer Books Unbound.
357 reviews54 followers
August 21, 2017
Review also posted on the blog.

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.
Profile Image for Meep.
2,029 reviews197 followers
August 16, 2019
Re-read - Think I may have liked this more on a second read. Not sure if this is to be a series but I wasn't quite ready to leave them when the book ended.
-- --

High 3*-4

The quiet agent makes for a quiet book, any drama is off page and what is shown is dulled by a non-standard personality.

Arthur as narrating character is likeable; he's had a complicated upbringing and wants to be liked, to get on, but it doesn't come naturally to him. I don't doubt the view of the agency people is skewered by his perspective and I could see it myself the difficulty fitting in to establshed social groups and how his childhood would influence that too. Martin would be an undemanding 'friend' and there's hints that leery others have some heart.

The story is the two men slowly, glacially slowly, finding a connection. There's no fanfare so don't read this hoping for loud declarations and drastically changed routines. They stay true to themselves. We learn very little about Martin, he doesn't share and warms only with a twitch of his lips. This is not about embracing life, but that sometimes instead of dancing in the rain it's ok to link hands and simply peer at it through the glass, together. While some crave music others lke quiet, and that's just as valid. There's no sex and possibly wont be, but there's still a connection, perhaps one that means more for it's quieteness.

I'd have liked to learn more about Martin, and part of me would have liked a lttle fanfare, a little more there. But the gentle end is pleasant too and there's a short extra I'll be trying and it's listed as a series so there could yet be more. It's not one I'd call favourite or be in a rush to re-read but it's the type of story that feels like more than the words on the page. Will be checking other titles by the author.

(But I do wonder if this had fanfic roots)
Profile Image for Sam Burns.
Author 65 books663 followers
October 15, 2020
After recommendations from Ami and Annie from FTtB, I knew I had to read this one. There aren't many books with any kind of asexual representation, and fewer with anything I'd call /good/ representation. (Hint, if your character is somehow 'reformed' into a different sexuality, then it's bad rep.)

This did not disappoint. The characters were well-formed, realistic people, with flaws and quirks that made them fun to read about. I'm sure one of the common problems people might have is that there isn't much of a plot, because it's not one over-arcing storyline. Instead, it's a character-driven story, and focuses on how the two main characters come to love and trust each other.

While the main characters work for a government agency, they aren't 'secret agents' as in the generally used romance novel trope. There's no action sequence, no chase scene, no passionate sex anywhere to be found. If you're looking for that stuff, skip this.

The book is exactly what it says it is, and is one of the most aptly titled pieces of fiction I've ever read. If you like the idea of a quiet, sweet romance, and think people can love each other without sex, then definitely read it. It's excellent writing, good representation, and is going on my list of favorites for sure.
Profile Image for Jax.
828 reviews32 followers
June 23, 2017
This was a bit peculiar, which was I why I liked it. It took a few odd turns and left some questions unanswered, but the writing was quite good and I appreciated that it wasn’t about lust or physical attraction as is so often the case.
Profile Image for Kathleen in Oslo.
234 reviews43 followers
October 26, 2022
I devoured this novella in a single gasp, then immediately had to re-read in order to savor its deliciousness. Rarely have I encountered a story where understanding, trust, and love are almost entirely communicated through actions rather than words; and where knowing and being known unfold so incrementally, so elegantly, in both tiny gestures and grand, brave (but mostly unspoken) leaps of faith.

The story is told entirely from the POV of Arthur, an analyst in an undisclosed, highly secret government agency. It starts with him getting a lateral promotion at work, and realizing that his strategy of just keeping his head down and working hard was working against him. Socially awkward, quiet, a bit weird, Arthur is nonetheless determined to get to know his new colleagues as a means to the end of a real promotion. He's not great at it. But his weirdness pales by comparison to that of the colleague in the cubicle across the hall, nicknamed the Alien. Arthur's first encounter with the Alien is when he mistakes the Alien's barren cubicle for the empty cubicle he is supposed to take over and is brusquely informed of his mistake:

'Oh, sorry. I thought....' He trailed off. The man's face was still but his eyes made very clear he did not want to talk and didn't like people in his space. Arthur grabbed Jude and his Rubik's cube and scurried across the hall. So much for making friends.

Sitting across the hall from him, Arthur becomes attuned to the Alien's clockwork habits: 8:05 at his desk, 10:00 a.m. cup of tea, 12:30 lunch, 3:00 p.m. cup of tea, 5:30 leave. Arthur finally asks his one lunch buddy, Carol, about him:

Carol didn't look over her shoulder like most people would. 'You mean the Alien?'

'Our best guess is that he crashed at Roswell and, after poking and prodding, they couldn't decide what to do with him so they gave him a human face and sent him here. He eats exactly one apple at the same time every day and is always reading books no one would read for fun. Three years, I've seen him talk to exactly no one.'

'Has anyone talked to him?'

Carol looked over her shoulder. 'A copy of The History of the Peloponnesian War, Volume 3 is a pretty good Go Away sign in my experience.'

Arthur looked over at the Alien. It was a Go Away sign, but it was a very specific type of go away sign; it was the kind that said 'Look at Me Just for a Moment. I'm Weird. If you talk to me you're going to decide I'm weird and not like me so let's just save both of us the public discomfort of you feeling the need to reject me.' He'd used that same trick in high school with copies of The Prince and Art of War. There might have also been some eyeliner involved. He could also remember being desperately lonely and wanting someone else's weirdness to match with his.

This is just masterful. It's Arthur's POV, but holy shit, do we feel like we know, really KNOW, the Alien (actually named Martin) from this exchange and observation: not just that he reads nonfiction bricks and barely eats, but who Martin is behind the wall he's built between him and the world. And the insight we get into Arthur too - the quiet, shy, awkward kid who, more than anything, wants someone else's weirdness to match with his, who is not put off by the Alien's Go Away sign but seeks, instead, connection, companionship. It's beautiful and utterly recognizable and incredibly specific, all at once.

And then, the first lunch meeting between the two, where Martin parries Arthur's introduction by reciting his personnel file back to him; as Arthur notes to himself, "an impressive step in the 'I'm Weird so don't bother acknowledging my existence' game." But Arthur parries back, a short exchange is had, and a tentative understanding is reached. And so it carries on: these shared, mostly silent lunches, which Arthur uses to observe and absorb Martin, learning to know him in ways that transcend words because those are not on offer.

And that's really what the story is about: attentiveness and care, understanding and trust, tentatively offered and nurtured and protected; and most of all love and acceptance, almost entirely established through acts great and small. This is not to say that nothing happens beside quiet lunches; there is quite a lot of action for a novella, although even the most dramatic events, because we see them through Arthur's eyes, unfold in the same quiet, considered manner as Arthur sharing his lunch with Martin does. There is illness, death, serious injury, but the focus is always on the emotional stakes. Bodies, corporeality, are unavoidable but averted, and touch as a form of communication and intimacy is, for the most part, eschewed.

This is particularly so for Martin who, it is implied in the text, is ace with touch sensitivity or aversion. Arthur's sexuality is more an open question, including to himself; at one point he identifies himself as possibly demi. Martin's halting confession of love is intensely moving, as he stutters out what he can give and what he cannot give; but in its silences and omissions, it is also baffling to Arthur, who does not at first understand what is being offered. But what he does understand, all along, is that their weirdness matches, and it is beautiful:

The secret of Martin was different. It lay quiet in his chest. It felt sacred, as if he had born witness to an ancient rite, rather than taking a depressed friend out for a movie. But the word 'friend' seemed not to fit. It was too vague and common. What he felt was more complicated than a word tossed about by children or achieved through the click of a mouse.

Maybe there was a word in old English, lost to modern ears. Martin let him see the cracks that night and the smallest hint of what lay beyond. He wanted to know what was truly beneath those cracks but also knew he would fight anyone who tried to break Martin open. For that feeling, he knew of no words.

Just exquisite.

Thanks to Charlotte for putting this on my radar with her incredibly incisive and moving blogpost.
Profile Image for Michael S..
156 reviews97 followers
November 22, 2017
A truly unique offering among the many, many similar M/M storylines out there.

I don't even want to touch plot details; part of the appeal is discovery in this unabashedly oddball book.

- Highly romantic with no steam whatsoever, and it works if you're open to this kind of experience. If you're in the mood for something a bit more explicit, I'd look elsewhere and circle back around.

- A lot of things are left unexplained, and I'm okay with that here. Soto's approach to detail is minimalist on the window dressing and very specific where it counts.

- I loved Soto's writing style (I would describe it as sophisticated, touching, and with a very dry humor), and the quality of editing was solid. I noticed very few errors, and nothing that really pulled me out of the experience.

Give this one a try if you are looking for a male romance out of the ordinary, especially one with demisexual or asexual themes.

Profile Image for Victoria (Eve's Alexandria).
653 reviews379 followers
November 6, 2022
Reread - November 2022: Holds up as one of the loveliest novellas of my acquaintance; culminating in one of the best hand holding moments in all of romance. The ‘I love you’ from Martin is perfection.

Original thoughts - December 2021:

I read this quiet restrained novella in a single sitting and it packs a lot of emotion into a small space. Two men, one demisexual, one asexual, find a wonderful space of understanding through acts of care, service, and mutual respect. It’s set in a secret government agency so there is also some suspense towards the end but the book is languid and gentle, even if the feelings contained are sometimes overwhelming.

CWs: death of father (off-page but extensive portrayal of immediate aftermath, funeral etc); assault, possible torture and injury.
Profile Image for Rosabel.
688 reviews151 followers
October 18, 2020
First I want to say: There is a second book right? This and the short story ain't it right? Because there's a lot that was left in the air, please let there be another one!!! 😫😞... But still what I read I loved!

I'm a person who actually express with touch, so reading a book about a person who is the total opposite was an intriguing idea but still made me doubt for a long time about actually picking it up, thanks to a thoughtful review I did and what a lovely thing it was.

It was short, sweet and really focused on the growth of the characters, they are secret agents but they do more desk work than anything, almost like a usual job, they had no risks, no secret missions, just files to translate.

The interactions between Martin and Arthur and how those progressed, slowly but surely, were delightful to read, every piece that they gave us was done with so much care that I was patiently eager for it. Also this book highlighted to me that some things in a relationship are seen as less important in face of others, in here they didn't kiss, they only touched barely but I could still feel the love and the connection, they didn't need passionate kissing or intense love making to be there, to love. That was beautifuI and a whole different/important perspective for people like me.

I loved it, I think that I would like to know Martin more, he has a story but this book was told in Arthur's POV so we got his story but not Martin's, the epilogue did that a little but it's not enough.

I really hope to read them again! Weirdos 4evah! 🥰❤
Profile Image for Claudie Arseneault.
Author 16 books388 followers
December 15, 2018
Finally picked it up after hearing a lot of good things about the ace rep. I got really attached, really quickly--stories where someone tries to slip into another's life without shattering their boundaries and being super stalkerish are my jam.

Bonus, this one has two ace characters on different part of the spectrum (Arthur is demisexual and will adopt that label over the course of the novel; Martin is likely asexual, although all we know for sure is that he is sex-repulsed). I do wish that the first time we ran into the ace label, it wasn't so casually thrown about by an allosexual character as "we have so many options these days!!" Thankfully she clearly doesn't mean it in a "trash these words" way.

Overall, I devoured this over the course of an evening. couldn't stop myself. Very enjoyable experience. :)
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