Focusing on building a successful career has made Daniel Derenzo and his business partner/friend, Nick Ross, comfortably wealthy men. But Daniel’s father, Frank, is calling Daniel’s insatiable drive for profit into question. Frank sees his son repeating the same mistakes he made and now that Frank’s been diagnosed with late-stage cancer, he wants to make sure Daniel is happy like Frank has never been.
Daniel isn’t sure what to make of his usually aloof father’s turnabout. But he certainly isn’t prepared to be blindsided by his father’s advice to be happy while on a business trip to Hong Kong with Nick. No more than Daniel expects that yearning for happiness to take the shape of wanting more than friendship with Nick. For one thing, Daniel has never been attracted to other men before. For another, Nick is married with two children. But after some serious soul searching and a few sessions with the professionals at a highly rated sex clinic in Seattle, Daniel not only accepts rebranding his orientation, he is ready to engage in a plan to make Nick, his married best friend, his partner in life, as well as work.
Despite nursing a crush on Daniel in college, Nick, a bisexual, gave up his fantasies and married a woman named Marcia. The men remained friends and Nick built a life for himself. After fourteen years of marriage, however, things have cooled considerably and Nick is just trying to make the best of it for his kids. But when suddenly Daniel starts stepping up his friend game and actively including Nick’s kids, keeping a lid on his old attraction proves difficult. Nick and Daniel finally admit their feelings during a minivacation with the kids while Marcia is away on a yoga retreat. But the happiness is short lived when Marcia catches wind of Nick’s impromptu trip. Soon, Nick and Daniel find themselves fighting a woman who’s been conditioned to cling to marriage, no matter how unhappy it is. Daniel is willing to make a last ditch effort to help Nick end his marriage, but there are no guarantees it will work.
This version of The Enlightenment of Daniel is a republication and the second installment in Easton’s Sex in Seattle series, though it certainly can be read as a standalone book. This book contains a few well-used tropes: instalove, falling for your best friend, a married love interest, and a wealthy hero. Easton’s treatment of each trope, however, breathed new life into them. Daniel’s sudden and fierce realization he is deeply and romantically interested in Nick is explored through Daniel’s consultation with a sex therapy clinic (fans of the series will recognize several characters associated with the clinic). I really enjoyed Daniel’s determination to explore his newly discovered sexual orientation before attempting to woo Nick and potentially making a move, but later realizing he isn’t capable of giving everything to Nick.
The organization of the book itself echoes Daniel’s business acumen. It’s organized into three parts that roughly approximate the stages of, well, acquiring an “asset” and merging with it. This is where the dynamic between Nick, his wife, and his kids is well on display. I was surprised how much sympathy I had for Nick’s wife; it was lovely that she wasn’t merely a bitchy obstacle for Daniel to clear (though she had some moments). Nick is also clearly unwilling to make any moves that he considers cruel acts against his wife—like when she accuses Nick and Daniel of having an affair and threatens to take the kids away if Nick doesn’t cut ties with Daniel. Nick is willing to sacrifice his newly admitted love for Daniel in order to maintain the status quo, at least for his kids sake.
This dynamic of Nick’s homelife is not lost on Daniel either. Daniel had, up to that point, tried his best to build a foundation with Nick and Nick’s kids, but even he realizes his Johnny-come-lately act may not work. Both Nick and Daniel are buffeted by their intense feelings, but also dogged by the unfortunate reality that Nick’s married and his wife is not likely to give him a divorce. I just really enjoyed how this dynamic played out without resorting to wild histrionics. It made the characters more realistic, and more relatable to me.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in a story that includes themes of unrequited love, impossible situations (i.e. MCs can’t be together because one is married), and stories about discovering sexuality. Personally, I usually don’t like stories that feature children, but here, too, Easton treats Nick’s kids like full-fledged characters rather than sidekicks and I thought they further added to Nick’s dimensionality and helped Daniel prove he was accepting of all of Nick, kids included.