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Publisher's Summary

"Proving Ground is an intriguing story filled with tension. A strong debut." - New York Times best-selling author Laura Griffin

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.

©2015 Stanalei Fletcher (P)2018 Stanalei Fletcher

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Promising first book in a series

Several of my friends have been encouraging me to read Stanalei Fletcher’s Northstar Security Services books. I have them all, but I rarely have time to sit and read, so they were sitting quietly on my e-reader, patiently waiting. When I saw the first book was on audio? I pounced.

I want to address the narration first because it was problematic for me. Now, I understand that often authors have little or no control on who they are able to secure as a narrator. Given that the character of Caitlin Malone was clearly the main character, I was expecting a female narrator. Now, Sandra Brown uses male narrators for her thrillers, so I have heard this done. And Charles Henderson Norman was perfectly competent. He mispronounced a few words, but that’s me being picky. Certainly the errors didn’t pull me too far out of the story. Putting his work in context, I believe he did a good job. I certainly won’t hesitate to listen to another book narrated by him.

I love the romantic suspense subgenre of romance and this book was a good example of what can make a book enjoyable. I love kick-ass heroines and Caitlin is just such a woman. Occasionally she does questionable things, but she admits her mistakes and owns up to them, accepting the consequences. Winding up back in her hometown, on her father’s doorstep, is not her idea of fun. It is the true punishment it is meant to be.

But going home is never simple. She almost immediately runs into John “Mac” MacAlistair, the man she once gave her heart and body to. It turns out he’s been staying with her father and wants her to reunite with her estranged father. And Caitlin wants Mac to give Jack a chance for redemption. Mac blames his Uncle Jack for the death of Mac’s parents and hasn’t spoken to the man since.

Against this backdrop, there is a massive forest fire, a lethal virus, a terrorist, and a loving husband whose wife is dying. The synopsis of the book gives the reader a good idea of all the elements of the book, but the twists and turns are what draw the reader in. There are frequent point of view changes, and although they are clearly delineated, the listener has to pay attention. I liked that I got different people’s perspectives on this situation. Often in romance you only get the hero and heroine’s points of view. This book, as a suspense, benefits from showing diverse characters’ inner motivations and conflicts.

I enjoyed the book. Charles Henderson Norman’s Irish brogue was great and the story carried me through. Did I find all Caitlin’s actions realistic? Not necessarily, but that’s the great thing about fiction. I can’t wait to listen to the next book!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Suspenseful listen

Mystery, suspense and romance, you cannot go wrong with Proving Ground. This book has a little of each. Caitlin Malone is trying to prove herself as a competent agent of Northstar Security. When things go wrong, she is sent home to find her father in the hospital and still voicing is disapproval of her choice of career. When she goes off for a couple of days with Jack to clear her head, she finds herself wrapped up in a case that includes theft, attempted murder and terrorism. Will Mac, her childhood friend and love of her life be able to find her in time to save her life? So much goes on in this story, it is important to pay attention to all the nuances. From the plans to infiltrate the biochemical plant to trying mending fences with loved ones, the suspense and emotions fly high. The characters of Mac and Caitlin are both strong willed and loyal. Their slow burning chemistry just heightens the story and keeps you listening to find out how things will finally end up.

This is my first narration by Charles Henderson Norman, and it was very satisfying. He has a good pace with the story, and his character voices are easily distinguishable. I especially loved his Irish brogue when giving life to Caitlin's father. I enjoyed his performance.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A good listen, excting with danger

An interesting listen with some action, lost love, family issues, drama and second chances. Caitlin is a strong woman but has an issue of thinking things out before she jumps which gets her into a mess with her job which puts her on leave. Her boss is an old time buddy of her fathers, he demands she goes home, she doesn’t want to for a few different reasons. Go home as order she does with her tail between her legs. On returning home she finds two things her father is in the hospital with issues from a long time accident from a bullet and the man she has always loved right in her face. He is the real reason she left years ago much against her father’s wishes. Her father told her if you take this job don’t come home….

Mr. Fletcher’s narration is good he does need to work a little on his women voices which are not bad just not a true female voice. He also needs to pause a little more to let you get the full effect. I am not staying it is bad by no means, and he didn’t race through it just needs a little more pause between characters, and what is going on around them. His normal voice is pleasant, it was a clear and clean audio with no background noises, no repeating of words and no volume changes. There were times when a little too much emotion was displayed and maybe not enough at other times. His male voices are wonderful, I always knew who was talking and what they were feeling. I thought his nurse was wonderful loved how she took control and you had no trouble understanding she meant business. I could not tell when breaks were taken, and I did enjoy his narration. He did bring the story a live and enjoyable. I thought it was worth my time and did enjoy the audio.

The author gives a good listen with interesting characters. It wasn’t a book I had trouble putting down but wasn’t a book I didn’t want to listen to. Her characters are likable, the plot was nice along with the action. Something was missing I can’t put my finger on it but it. I thought Caitlin needed to grow up a little, the story is a lot about me, me and what I want. She isn’t a team player and it maybe the reason I didn’t really care for her was because of the voice the narrator used for her. I did enjoy a lot of the scenes, along with the danger and excitement. Is it worth your time, yes it was entertaining and I did enjoy it. I enjoyed the mystery around the plot but didn’t understand why she didn’t tell them about the two men from the start or at least once Mac got to her. It was a long time before they started looking for the man who started it all. Caitlin just never has her head where it needs to be. There was a little humor and I really enjoyed it as well as the danger. It isn’t a story I got lost in but it is a good story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Action packed

Loved this fast paced listen. Lots of action that kept me hooked from start to finish and just a touch of romance made it hard to take my headphones off! Loved the narrator, he did an amazing job of bringing the characters and story to life. I received a free review copy of this audiobook at my request and I have voluntarily left this review.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Jennifer
  • HOLLANSBURG, OH, United States
  • 02-05-18

action filled

This story has a little of everything. There is lost love, suspense, HEA. The narrator h as a very deep voice, so it was a little harder for him to perform the female voices, but he did it. He did a great job over all.

If you like a story filled with action and suspense you will want to read this one.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

the right amount of everything

I have to say this book was quite interesting the romance was in the right amount for a suspense book it wasn't too much I don't know how to explain it but sometimes authors mix a lot of genres but this book made me enjoyed the storyline very much very enjoyable book

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review."

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Great Narration

Charles Henderson Norman did a fabulous job narrating. His voices and emotions were great and he brought the characters to life. I found the heroine a little frustrating and for a trained agent it took her a long time to report who started the fire and what happened to her in the forest. The storyline was interesting and there were some suspenseful scenes, however it was just okay for me. I received a free copy of this book and have voluntarily provided this unbiased review.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Northstar for the Star Crossed Lovers

Fast, energetic read about 2 individuals who grow up like brother and sister only to eventually realize that it is something more. The part about the pathogens is really kind of scary, since our world is so full of crazy folks, that it sort made me think of the "what ifs" that could happen should this really occur. The read was really fast, which made it a little more challenging to visualize the scenery and everything that the author was trying to portray, but all in all the narrator did a decent job. I am looking forward to Book 2, to find out more about Caitlyn and Max and how their relationship grows or doesn't.

I received this audiobook at no-cost from Audiobookworm Promotions. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

LAYERS OF WONDERFUL

This is the first book in the Northstar Security series. It is yet to be seen if they will need to be read in the order of release.

I liked how this story was all about Caitlin not being perfect. Sure, she’s beautiful (, fit, and thin), but she’s got major issues in her family, love life, and career. Isn’t that a reminder to not judge the book by the cover?

Then there was the hint of paranormal with Caitlin’s second sight. Some believe in those things. Some don’t. I’m definitely in the first group, so this added a little layer of extra for me.

The relationship between Caitlin and Mac is sweet, frustrating, and sexy. I’m still smiling, but also would love to just smack him upside the head while I laugh at him. Ultimately, it was another terrific layer to a suspense-filled trek through the woods.

My final analysis: a few giggles and gasps in a thrill of a tale. I’m looking forward to reading (listening to) the next book in this series! Are we continuing in Washington DC with another agent, or another assignment with Caitlin?

Narration: The narrator is wonderful. His voice is soothing. I liked how he was able to convey the urgency of the dramatic scenes without causing undue stress to this driver. It was a perfect combination.

I do want to make a note about the listenability. There are no raw sex scenes, but there is swearing and adult situations making it unsuitable for little ears or co-workers.

Note: while I was given this book as a gifted audiobook copy, my opinions are my own and are given freely.

Title: PROVING GROUND
Series: Northstar Security #1
Category /Genre: Romantic Suspense
Recommended for: 18+ due to sexual content
Listenability: NSFW
Received from: Stanalei Fletcher (as an Audible gifted copy)

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Great Twisted Tale of Second Chances

This was a strong story filled with many plot twists and the difficult family relations that often plague people. Getting caught in an inferno that is a forest fire adds to the complications involved in this HEA. The ultimate results are told in detail and the sense of excitement is included in every chapter. I got this ARC via audiobook boom and this is my voluntary review. The narrator was great and did wonders with the story.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • A D.
  • 02-09-18

A strong start to suspense-filled series!

I enjoy suspense-filled stories with strong female characters who are simultaneously bad-assed and vulnerable. This story did not disappoint. Caitlin is wonderfully beautiful, flawed, strong and vulnerable. She has to return home after a botched job with Northstar Security. She has to face her estranged father, who is unwell and in the hospital. She has to also address her history with Mac, the love of her life and the man who rejected her after one night of passion.

There is a lot going on in this book. There are the repercussions of her failed job, her challenged relationships but also Caroline's own personal insecurities. Mac also has his own demons to address. Throw in a biker rally, a raging forest fire, the potential threat of a bio-terrorist and so much more. The result is a detailed, fast-paced plot and a strong start to this series.

This book was given to me for free at my request and I provided this voluntary review.