The Shield of Three Lions
When her home is attacked by the Earl of Northumberland, 11-year-old Alix, heiress to Wanthwaite, is ordered by her dying father to disguise herself as a boy and seek out the king, who will protect her and recover her inheritance. So Alix sets out on a bizarre quest, aided by her semi-constant companion, Enoch the Scot, whom she meets upon the road south. For it’s 1190 and England’s king is Richard Lionheart, whose eyes are fixed upon Jerusalem. When she finally meets Richard, the king is fascinated by the beautiful “boy” and takes Alix on Crusade as his page. Certain Richard knows her true sex, Alix falls in love with the king – only to find, in turmoil of the Holy Land, that she is not the only one masquerading as something she is not. Through Crusade and betrayal and daring escapes, Alix clings grimly to her determination to return to claim Wanthwaite for her own.
This is a highly readable and very colorful book – but it’s an MGM historical (this is the sort of book in which the heroine owns a pet wolf). The author knows huge amounts about specific areas of the period, but then throws in something like a “magenta” garment (magenta dye was invented in 1859). However, while half the details are wrong, they frequently aren’t the half you’d think. “Dangereuse” was a woman’s name of the period. Richard Lionheart did come up with the bright idea of marrying his sister to Saladin’s brother.
Be warned that there’s a great deal of talk about bodily functions, and plot incidents require firm curbing of one’s sense of disbelief. (At one point a lone knight, armed and mailed, strips naked on the road to rape a woman.) But if you let it, the author’s bawdy, witty style will sweep you along on a riotous, ribald, romantic romp.