My review of The Craft of Love could be as short as “a quiet, gentle romance with supportive and accepting families,” but that hardly seems fair to such a lovely book. Benjamin is a silversmith who runs a smithy and Remembrance is a quiltmaker. They meet by chance when Remembrance seeks Benjamin’s sister’s lacemaking talents. And as luck would have it, Benjamin had just decided to have a quilt made with some dresses his mother made. The two meet along the way at each other’s workplaces and at a lecture, moving from a general admiration to something more specific and loving.
I need to stress how gentle and kind The Craft of Love is. The conflict is so minimal that readers of more traditional historicals might keep asking themselves when Benjamin is going to reveal his agony over his past hedonistic ways causing his father to have an apoplexy that resulted in him inheriting a title he doesn’t want. The Craft of Love is not that book. Benjamin’s primary concern is whether or not Remembrance could imagine a life together. While Remembrance worries over if she should risk her heart again. There is no black moment and that felt not only true to the story, but like a kindness to the reader. At this moment, I don’t need the characters to go through hell to achieve happiness, sometimes people carefully working through life is enough.
Possibly the best things about this book are the secondary characters for the simple fact of acceptance. Remembrance’s sister is aware that Remembrance was in love with a woman and had her heart broken, and her counsel is to try for Remembrance to open herself up to love again. There is no fretting over who Remembrance loves as long as she is happy. And Benjamin’s living family never frets over the fact that he is a trans man. Georgiana, his sister, is protective and considerate and wants only for Benjamin to be happy and loved.
There are a couple of instances where the story touches on transphobia with Benjamin’s dead mother not accepting him as he is and members of his church being cruel in public, but in both cases, someone is there to support him whether it is his sister or Remembrance. And there’s something genuinely lovely about that. He is always cared for and loved.
I feel like I’d be remiss if I did not mention the crafts because it is over their individual skills that these two fall in love. Remembrance makes a quilt for Benjamin that reflects her style and incorporates his design, and meanwhile Benjamin makes her a teapot that also is a mix of his work and hers. The love story unfolds so calmly that it was pleasure to read, a balm for a weary mind.
Content warnings: transphobia mentioned