Proving Ground

Stanalei Fletcher
Proving Ground
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The Wild Rose Press
Release Date
April 2015
Book 1 of Northstar Security
Action/Adventure Romance, Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense/Mystery

Screw-ups don't get second chances. That's what Caitlin Malone believes when she returns to Oregon after failing her first Northstar Security assignment. When she inadvertently stumbles across a plot to steal deadly pathogens from the bio-lab near her hometown, she sees a chance at redemption.

USDA Forest Ranger, John ‘Mac' MacAlistair, doesn't want to babysit the motorcycle club holding their annual rally in his national forest. To make matters worse, Caitlin is attending the rally with Mac's estranged uncle. Having her home again brings up feelings that are better left buried.

It's early September. Any spark will send the dry timber into a raging fire. The terrorists are counting on that distraction to work in their favor. When Caitlin is trapped by the wildfire, her only hope of rescue is pinned on Mac, the man she's tried two years to forget. Before they can share their feelings, Mac and Caitlin must first escape the burning forest and stop the terrorists from releasing the deadly pathogens.

Book Review by Ashia (reviewer)
Sep 20, 2015   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
161 people found the following review helpful
Interesting and unique

PROVING GROUND is an interestingly unique suspense read. True, there are the inevitable surveillance and chase of the bad guys, the running out of time for the good guys, but this is the first time that I've read about running from an environmental threat like a forest fire.

Caitlin's inexperience caused her to botch her first assignment, and her boss ordered her to go home to her father, with whom she had a falling-out. Since she wished to keep her job, she had no choice but to follow orders, only to find that her father was hospitalized earlier that day. Her relationship with her father wasn't good, and there was some misunderstanding with Mac (her childhood friend and the man she loved) that wasn't yet resolved, and so she decided to join the biker rally that Jack (the hero's uncle) had invited her to in order to clear her head.

At the rally, Caitlin was enjoying her walk when she spied some suspicious activity that resulted in her being injured and the forest erupting into flames. With time running out, could she escape with her life? When Mac went to rescue her, would she instead be responsible for causing him to lose his life, too?

Caitlin is a strong heroine, and she's not perfect, and that makes her relatable and sympathetic, because who among us hasn't failed at our jobs and worked our asses off to prove ourselves worthy again? She's tough and brave, though she's not really good at her job, but maybe because she's young and inexperienced, but even toward the end, she needed Mac's and her dad's inputs. Then again, the difference this time was that she was willing to listen and take direction, and we see her growth and development over the course of the book.

Mac, on the other hand, is a bit of a mystery to me. He has a strong code of ethics and maybe a stubborn mindset that prevents him from going after what he wants. I would've thought he'd break down when he almost lost Caitlin to the fire...but wow, is he stubborn! I guess it's really hard to let go of hard-wired beliefs, and the author portrayed this well in Mac.

A good part of the book shows Caitlin and Mac trapped in the mountains with the fire burning ever closer; it was well described and you can really feel the desperation as they try to stay one step ahead. The surrounds and the movement of the fire was described in a vivid and clear manner; either the author researched this thoroughly or she has plenty experience in the country, in exploring forests and trails.

One thing though, this couple surely has a problem with communication. Not only do they have a problem talking about their feelings for each other, but even the situation that Caitlin found herself in--how she was almost killed, etc--weren't revealed until later in the book. I thought that's not so realistic, being an agent and especially when she knew the villainy of the duo. I would've thought that's the first thing she would've told Mac when she saw him, so that they could head off the bad guys.

Something else that surely has me scratching my head. I don't understand the connection between Atlanta and Oregon. Unless trouble follows Caitlin? I can't say more without spoiling the story.

For readers interested to know, there was no sex scene here, only kissing. Yet, that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story.

While my actual rating for this is 3.5 stars, overall, PROVING GROUND is a delightfully refreshing read.
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