I loved this novella from Ada Maria Soto and ate it up in one evening. What's to love?
First, the setting of a "secret agency" was unique and fun. Arthur works as a data analyst in a "government" building (though he tells his mom he sells insurance). Everyone else in this shadowy organization keeps very much to themselves, even in the lunchroom. When Arthur decides he needs to improve his visibility by being friendly, he upsets the gloomy, uber private facade--especially when he picks the quietest, weirdest guy of all to befriend. There isn't a lot of explanation about what this secret agency does, but we don't really need it. The "secrecy" angle works to keep even Arthur and the reader in the dark. In this case, the author depends on us knowing basically what a secret agency is thanks to James Bond and its ilk. The setting felt very dry and tongue-in-cheek and was nice change from the usual romance tropes.
Second, the writing is really very good. As a writer myself, I'm always thrilled to run across a new writer (to me anyway) in romance who can cause me to smile and underline like a fool.
"I'm sure there's a culture somewhere where silently shoving finger food at someone is an acceptable form of courting. Hobbits maybe."
I enjoyed every word of this book. Sometimes an author's sense of humor connects with you and sometimes it doesn't. I've read some highly-ranked books filled with brash, constant sexual references and juvenile potty humor that I didn't find funny at all. But then, I've always tended toward the dry and subtle, and that describes this book's sense of humor to a T.
"Agent Sims used to do it, but he bashed a fax machine to death with a three-hole punch, then quit. So, that's an open position, as it were."
Third, I also appreciated the uniqueness of the characters and the romance. This is not your typical first kiss-bj-anal sort of romance. The characters aren't even sure they're in a romance for most of the book. One character is asexual and the other isn't sure what he is. It's fine with the characters if they never have sex, and it was fine with me too. Their sweet-weird-caring relationship was all kinds of awesome. I give the author all the props for just the freshness of this in the market and for the way the characters themselves had to feel around the edges of what they meant to each other.
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 a click of a mouse. ... 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.
If you're not sure if a romance like this will be your cup of tea, try it anyway. It's only 111 pages and I guarantee the smooth-funny writing will pull you through and make you smile.
In Ada Maria Soto, I've found a new author to follow and bless wishings upon from afar. :-) Hope you enjoy her too.