A best-seller in France, this charming but inconsequential bouquet of mini-biographies continues the author's extended fling with the French attested to in his Left Bank, Right Bank and The People of ParisBarry, an American, displays in his preface a Francophilism bordering on worship: ""a nation endowed with extraordinary curiosity""; ""a passion for simple distractions, that refuge of complicated natures,"" etc., ad nauseam. But once past that, delightful and carefully wrought accounts of French, and French-based, lovers unfold. The order is chronological, flanked at start and finish by two relatively liberated couples, HÃ‰loise and AbÃ‰lard, and Beauvoir and Sartre (whom Barry finds less free than generally thought; Sartre appears in this account as dominant--and domineering). A parade of other well-known duos Fills the intervening pages: Lancelot and Guinevere, paragons of courtly love; MotiÃ‰re and his wife, Armande, Jealousy incarnates; the Marquis and the Marquise de Sade, not surprisingly premiere examples of master and slave; Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, showing that love may rule even in the most contemporary of couples; and, more recently, Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais, whom, along with Voltaire and the Marquise du Chatelet, Barry depicts as shining examples of lovers who practiced love as it is meant to be, passionate and free. Although low in intellectual nourishment, this gossipy soufflÃ‰ d'amour provides light, quick satisfaction.