An absorbing- and at the same time a disillusioning- story, built around the strange marriage of Berengaria of Navarre and Richard I -- better known to romantic literature as Richard Coeur de Lion. With the lovely Berengaria, it was a case of love at first sight. With Richard, a hard-boiled matter of business. He needed the dowry her father offered; he had shunted off marriage with the French princess, because of a scandal that served as excuse. And he yielded to the necessity of the English king marrying ostensibly to establish the inheritance- before turning over England to the traitor John and leaving for the Third Crusade. The story is told on several levels of interest-Berengaria is focus throughout but one gets her story through her half-sister, the acute and sensitive hunchback, the Duchess of Spleta, through Richard's strong-willed mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, through the minstrel Blondel, adoring Berengaria, and serving her as intimate of Richard the elusive. The portrait of Richard, as a secretly acknowledged homosexual, will shock many, distress others to whom the portrait is sacred. But Norah Lofts, scholar of the period, gives this theory substance in a penetrating study of an otherwise incomprehensible marriage. A fascinating portrait of a period, done with charm and vigor and a sense of contemporaneous reportage.