Romance in 11th-century Spain, ranging exotically (if not quite authentically) from the filth and barbarism of the Christian court in Castile to the cultural wonders of the jewel-like Arab city of Cordova. Jimena Gomez, once a rambunctious little girl, has been subdued into complete dullness by her brutish family and the hovering Inquisition. When her noble dad is killed in a duel and leaves instructions that she must wed his killer, she dutifully complies, finding general nastiness in the arms of her new husband, raving Rodrigo de Diaz, a.k.a. El Cid. In no time El goes crusading to the south and falls hard for a gorgeous Moslem lady; he ignores the fact that she's the fourth wife of the learned Abu el Hassan, and grabs her--only to knife her in parting when she laughs at him. Hassan vowsrevenge, and, years later, captures Mrs. E1 Cid--Jimena, who, after about ten years of churchy narrow-mindedness, comes to appreciate Hassan's home-town. In Taylor's glorious, fanciful Cordova, Jimena watches as women go veilless, take lovers openily, and even teach college; liberated, she learns to love Hassan, communes with various pseudo-historical culture heroes, and finally joins up with Spanish dwarf Emiliano to recapture her child from the Church. Imaginative folderol from a nervy newcomer to the pageant-and-passion racket.