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.
Dear Ada Maria Soto,
Several book buddies at Amazon m/m group where I hang out a lot recommended your book. I never heard of your name before, but the book was on kindle unlimited and I do have the subscription so it seemed like a safe bet.
The story surprised me in a good way. I do not think I have ever read m/m romance which was set in the security agency, but was mostly about quiet life of those men and women whose job is to analyze stuff for the agency instead of fighting bad guys in the field. I say mostly because *not quiet* life ends up affecting one of the heroes closer to the end quite strongly, but even though it did happen, we never even know what exactly he was asked to do that the consequences were so harsh. It was nicely done I thought and mostly the story was about the office life and about the development of their relationship.
And I just liked the writing from the very beginning.
"There was something about ficus trees Arthur found disconcerting. It was how he could never tell if they were real or plastic. It would irritate him to the point where he would break a leaf trying to work it out, usually just at the moment when someone important walked into the room."
Arthur is a good employee, but he didn’t get a promotion in a long time and he finally decided to be brave and do something about it. He asks his supervisor and supervisor tells him sure he would be level two analyst on the fifth floor. Arthur had been on level two for several years though and points that to his supervisor that moving him from one floor to another is not much of the promotion.
Supervisor sighs and basically tells Arthur that nobody knows who he (Arthur) is. Basically the advice he gives to Arthur is to be more social, maybe run Super bowl for the office or something like that.
Arthur poor guy tries to be more social really hard on the fifth floor, however as blurb tells you his interactions come out as awkward at best and creepy at worst to some of his colleagues till he finally makes a friend who points that to him. Arthur abandons his attempts to be more social after that till he notices another coworker who was eating lunch at the same time and apparently that guy is “more weird” than Arthur to the point that he has a nickname of “The Allien”.
Basically Arthur and Martin getting to know each other were at the heart of this book. I think it is a novella, but it is packed with the character development and gentle humor.
Arthur is a decent cook, Martin was eating one apple for lunch every day and Martin was a skinny guy. Arthur’s attempts to feed Martin in the least obtrusive way possible made me smile throughout the story.
"How does someone, in American society, get to whatever miscellaneous age Martin might be, and seem totally perplexed by the simplest of menus? There was pizza listed. Yes, there were plenty of people who didn't, wouldn't, couldn't cook, but unless Martin had been raised in some secluded cult (a theory Arthur was willing to consider) he must have an opinion on pizza toppings. The lights blinked, announcing the start of the movie. Arthur sighed. "Antipasto plate for two and two chocolate milkshakes," he ordered."
We get to see Arthur helping Martin to get through some pretty bad situations and we see Martin helping Arthur as well, really liked that the narrative did not go the “rescuer and damsel in distress” road.
Both guys knew each other much better at the end of the story than in the beginning, although of course they have had plenty of discoveries left to make. I loved for example how Arthur discovered Martin’s volunteer activities when he went to the library to return Martin’s books.
""Why don't we make some get well cards for Merlin." The children each gave him cold stares. It was like being looked at by twenty tiny Martins. It was scary. "Okay, I can't read this." "Merlin hasn't taught you old English yet?" "No, he hasn't. It's on the list. I can read you something else? We can make cards?"
"You didn't collect homework." "He gives you homework?" Arthur had some memories of the local children library growing up and he was pretty sure there was no homework or old English epic poetry involved. The children each pulled lined paper out of bags and passed them forward. He flicked through them. They seemed to be about the history of Beowulf, but what Arthur noticed the most was that all the papers, even from the youngest kids, were all in the most perfect of cursive letters.
It reminded him of Hanh's elegant writing which had been beaten into her by nuns. "I will pass these on to him. I am sure it will cheer him up. Now how about those get-well cards and you all can start teaching me old English so maybe next time I'll be able to catch up."
I thought that even though the story ends with HFN ending I understood perfectly what these men saw in each other and why they fell in love.
Please note that there is no sex in the story, both men are asexual.