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Author: Victoria Brooks
Publisher: GreatestEscapes.com Publishing
Rating: *****

Victoria Brooks' first novel is a breath of fresh air. A romantic thriller, it's an old-fashioned good read – not too heavy, not too demanding, not too long. But definitely original and captivating…and tinted red, "an unlucky color that signified death".

Her extensive experience as a traveler, travel writer and editor of two acclaimed books, Literary Trips I and II, add depth, breadth and credibility to this tome. Based on historical facts, and brought to life by Brooks' talent for seeing deep into others' souls, the story flows through France and Vietnam of the 1940s, '50s and '60s. Brooks' eye for detail and her particular affinity for Vietnam paint cinematically crisp portraits of scenes and characters that lure us readily into the story.

Red Dream follows a modern woman transcending turbulent times – some of which are of her own creation. A woman on her own in a foreign country in an era when that was risqué. A woman who chooses career over love before free choice was understood or accepted. Who does what she wants, gets what she desires and survives by her wits. A woman who is "as beautiful and hard as a piece of Jade".

This is La Doctoress Jade Minh, wife of South Vietnamese scientist Van, a highly moral, rich and respectable man who adores her and believes everything he's told. Financed by Van's money and secure in his love, Jade spends more than two decades in Paris, first getting her degree, then working as a translator at the South Vietnamese embassy.

Along the way, she strays into the arms of sexy Jacques Duras, from whom she keeps the details of her married life. When she becomes pregnant, Jade realizes that if she has the baby, Van will cut her off from the lifestyle she loves. She therefore tries (unsuccessfully) to abort it. Jacques never forgives her, and when the baby is born, tells her it's dead. He takes the child away, they go their separate ways, and she never sees him again.

More than a decade later, a mysterious note delivered by Chou, an evil Vietnamese lawyer working out of the embassy, leads Jade back to Montpelier, where she and Jacques were lovers. She discovers that Jacques is dead but her daughter is not, and that the 14-year-old Suzette has been deposited in a convent orphanage there. Jade arrives at the orphanage only to find that the girl has just run away.

Needing to silence Suzette before Van learns about her, Jade makes a pact with the devil, the influential and well connected Chou, to find her. But years of searching turn up nothing.

About halfway through, the story switches to Suzette and her search for her mother. A dazzler who ends up in Vietnam on the red dawn of the war, Suzette falls in love with a Vietnamese soldier. She captivates him and everyone else she meets – but not Jade, whom she finally encounters before a backdrop of fire, blood and war. Red blood, red dream.

Vancouver's Victoria Brooks has given us a worthwhile trip through history, intrigue and seduction on two continents. Having proven herself many times as a skilled writer of travel tales, she is now established as a novelist of note.