Category Archives: James MacManus

Tour Stop & Review: Sleep In Peace Tonight by James MacManus

peace tonightTitle: Sleep In Peace Tonight by James MacManus
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Length: 369 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


It’s January 1941, and the Blitz is devastating England. Food supplies are low, Tube stations in London have become bomb shelters, and U-boats have hampered any hope of easy victory. Though the United States maintains its isolationist position, Churchill knows that England is finished without the aid of its powerful ally.

Harry Hopkins, President Roosevelt’s most trusted adviser, is sent to London as his emissary, and there he falls under the spell of Churchill’s commanding rhetoric—and legendary drinking habits. As he experiences life in a country under attack, Hopkins questions the United States’ silence in the war. But back home FDR is paranoid about the isolationist lobby, and even Hopkins is having trouble convincing him to support the war.

As Hopkins grapples with his mission and personal loyalties, he also revels in secret clubs with newsman Edward R. Murrow and has an affair with his younger driver. Except Hopkins doesn’t know that his driver is a British intelligence agent. She craves wartime action and will go to any lengths to prove she should be on the front line. This is London under fire, and it’s only when the night descends and the bombs fall that people’s inner darkness comes to light.

In Sleep in Peace Tonight, a tale of courage, loyalty, and love, and the sacrifices one will make in the name of each, James MacManus brings to life not only Blitz-era London and the tortuous politics of the White House but also the poignant characters and personalities that shaped the course of world history.

The Review:

In Sleep In Peace Tonight, James MacManus skillfully weaves fact with fiction and the resulting story is a fascinating novel set during World War II. Beginning in January 1941, the story is rich in historical details as US envoy Harry Hopkins travels to Britain to assess the war torn country’s ability to continue fighting the Germans in the early years of World War II. It is an intriguing and insightful view into a little known period of history that provides readers with a better understanding of why the US was so reluctant to enter the war.

Harry Hopkins is not an elected official but he is President Franklin Roosevelt’s most trusted advisor. With mounting pressure from Churchill for the US to offer more assistance than the much beleaguered Lend-Lease program, Harry is sent to Britain in an effort to smooth over the strained relations between the two countries. Hopkins’ time in Britain is full of meetings with Churchill and his staff but he also witnesses first-hand the devastating effects of the relentless Blitz attacks and heartbreaking destruction in the wake of the bombings.

Interspersed with these factual events is Harry’s relationship with Leonora Finch, the driver assigned to him during his stay in Britain. While both the character of Leonora and their subsequent romance are fictional, this part of the storyline serves to highlight the changing roles of women in war and the evolution of British intelligence, the Resistance and their effort to cripple the Nazis in the surrounding countries.

While Sleep in Peace Tonight is always interesting, the novel is a little slow paced and repetitive in the beginning. The story is told from several different perspectives and some of these shifts are a bit confusing at times. The characterization of the key players is superb and each of them are vibrantly depicted. What makes the story truly amazing is watching Harry Hopkins skillfully and diplomatically work with both Churchill and Roosevelt and maintain peace between the US and Britain. Equally captivating is the gradual shift in Hopkins’ personal opinion on US involvement in the war.

Sleep in Peace Tonight is a riveting World War II novel that is very unique and infinitely intriguing. James MacManus brings both the story and its characters vividly to life. Anyone who is interested in history would benefit from reading this incredibly well-researched and captivating novel.

Author Bio

JAMES MACMANUS is the managing director of The Times Literary Supplement. He is the author of Ocean Devil, which was made into a film starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers. His other novels include The Language of the Sea and Black Venus.

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Filed under Historical (40s), James MacManus, Rated B, Review, Sleep In Peace, Thomas Dunne Books

Blog Tour Stop, Contest & Review: Black Venus by James MacManus

Title: Black Venus by James MacManus
Publisher: Macmillian
Imprint: Thomas Dunne Books
Genre: Historical
Length: 367 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Blog Tour Company


A vivid novel of Charles Baudelaire and his lover Jeanne Duval, the Haitian cabaret singer who inspired his most famous and controversial poems, set in nineteenth-century Paris.

For readers who have been drawn to The Paris Wife, Black Venus captures the artistic scene in the great French city decades earlier, when the likes of Dumas and Balzac argued literature in the cafes of the Left Bank. Among the bohemians, the young Charles Baudelaire stood out—dressed impeccably thanks to an inheritance that was quickly vanishing. Still at work on the poems that he hoped would make his name, he spent his nights enjoying the alcohol, opium, and women who filled the seedy streets of the city.

One woman would catch his eye—a beautiful Haitian cabaret singer named Jeanne Duval. Their lives would remain forever intertwined thereafter, and their romance would inspire his most infamous poems—leading to the banning of his masterwork, Les Fleurs du Mal, and a scandalous public trial for obscenity.

James MacManus’s Black Venus re-creates the classic Parisian literary world in vivid detail, complete with not just an affecting portrait of the famous poet but also his often misunderstood, much-maligned muse.

The Review:

Black Venus is a mesmerizing fictionalized novel about French poet Charles Baudelaire and his oftentimes turbulent relationship with his mistress and muse Jeanne Duval. James MacManus brilliantly incorporates fact and fiction into an incredibly fascinating story that I found impossible to put down.

Beginning in 1842 as Charles turns twenty-one and ending in 1867 with his death, Black Venus is a gritty and in-depth account of Charles’ life. Mr. MacManus does not downplay Charles’ extravagant lifestyle, his excessive drinking, his dependence on opium or his longstanding money problems. Charles is spoiled, petulant and his lack of impulse control leads to astoundingly poor decisions that haunt him for most of his life.

Nor does Mr. MacManus gloss over Charles’ tumultuous twenty year relationship with cabaret singer Jeanne Duval. In most books about Charles, Jeanne’s general portrayal is unflattering, but in Black Venus, we see her in a more sympathetic light. Their relationship is volatile and plagued by jealousy and infidelity and neither Jeanne nor Charles understand their dependence on one another. Despite their numerous and tempestuous breakups, Jeanne is clearly the inspiration for many of Charles’ poems and his devotion to her never wanes.

Mr. MacManus’ research of both the time period and Charles’ life is exemplary. It is easy to romanticize both Paris and the Bohemian way of life, but Mr. MacManus avoids this pitfall with accurate depictions of harsh living conditions and a non-glamorous representation of Charles and Jeanne’s sometimes seedy lifestyle. His descriptive and compelling prose brings the streets and businesses of Paris vibrantly to life and adds authenticity to the overall story.

I have little knowledge of poetry or Charles Baudelaire, but I was quite intrigued by Black Venus. I love history, but often find non-fiction works to be, well, a little on the dull side but I cannot resist a fictionalized novel about real places, people or events. The right author can breathe life into long ago events and James MacManus brilliantly succeeds in not only keeping, but piquing, readers’ interest about this significant moment in history with this enthralling character study of Charles Baudelaire and Jeanne Duval.

For more insight into Black Venus here is a short video by author James MacManus:

Contest Info:

I am giving away a print copy of Black Venus to one lucky commenter (Contest is open to US addresses ONLY). To enter the contest:

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It’s that easy! The winner will be selected using Monday May 13th. The winner will be posted HERE on Monday.

Follow the rest of the tour HERE.


Filed under Black Venus, Blog Tour, Contest, James MacManus, Macmillan, Rated B+, Review, Thomas Dunne Books