For those who might not have expected it, this is the early 1800's, with Napoleon on his way to his short-lived conquests and the U.S., courtesy of Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase, on its first step towards its longer-lived but perhaps equally disastrous destiny. The key to the delicate balance of U.S. autonomy ironically turns out to be Haiti, where the blacks, first under Toussaint L'Ouverture and then under the insanely vicious Dessalines, combine with the plague and finally the English to drive their masters out of the richest Caribbean island, thereby permanently destroying French hopes for rebuilding a New World Empire. Amidst the deceit of French diplomacy, the stupidity of Royalist slaveowners, the bloodthirstiness of the Terror, the orgulousness of Bonaparte, and the hideous (albeit justified) bestiality of the Haitians -- only Jefferson comes out smelling anyting like a rose, probably because he prophetically (if not historically) worries about the consequences of his unconstitutional stretching of executive powers. Sound unfamiliar? This well researched novel shows a fine grasp of the entanglements of a time most people would understandably prefer to overlook, tempered with a modern consciousness of the corruption of power, even in the best of men.