Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Colina de Lavanda by August Li – Warmest Wishes

Lord protector of whores, thieves, sorcerers, and deviants.

Owning a parcel of land the railroad needs to cross means Edward gets to run the border town around the station as he sees fit. What starts as a place to indulge his varied appetites becomes a haven to society’s castoffs, and if Edward encourages legends about its founder to flourish, well, he’s not so much a liar as a man who wants to protect all the cultures living in peace. Being mayor means folks might ignore his vices, but they also expect him to fix what goes wrong.

When a crushing heat wave and drought threaten not only the town’s diverse holiday celebrations but its very existence, Edward must turn to the one man he’d rather french kiss a timber rattler than face—the icily elegant Cantonese mage Edward walked out on but never stopped loving.

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Advent Calendar Day 19

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Combining magic, mythology, tall tales, and the American Old West, August Li’s Colina de Lavanda is a fascinating tale. While in pursuit of his own personal pleasures, Edward built a small railroad town that is the very definition of diversity – both socially and culturally. Society’s outcasts have found a safe place to call home and live in harmony with one another. That is, until Mother Nature and a travelling charlatan both descend upon his town and threaten not only its inhabitants, but its continued existence.

One of the things I liked about this story was Edward’s imperfection. He’s not a perfect hero, not by any means. When he reveals his past to Shu and confesses his transgression, it’s clear that his creation of Colina de Lavanda was not a selfless act and that bothers him when so many of the town’s residents look to him as their savior and protector. But as Shu points out, few seemingly selfless acts are truly selfless and in the case of Colina de Lavanda, what truly mattered was that it was the safe haven so many of its residents needed. Shu does not argue that the ends justify the means, but rather that in creating a safe place for himself and allowing others with similar predilections to move there, Edward created a sanctuary for many, giving them a safe haven to call home as well. The best part though, is that Shu doesn’t shame Edward for his imperfections and past mistakes. Shu may have walked away from Edward in order to protect his own heart when Edward refused to give up other men, but he didn’t shame Edward for that nor did he make Edward grovel when the man realized what was truly important – love. Just as Colina de Lavanda offered Shu a second chance in life to find his own happiness, he offered Edward a second chance at love, and Edward was smart enough to grab on to it with both hands… literally.

AUGUST LI plays every game as a mage. He thinks the closest thing to magic outside of games and fantasy is to bring things into existence from nothing, which he does in words and images. As a proud trans man, he hopes to bring diversity and representation to all those who want to see themselves in the art and stories they enjoy. He’s a perfectionist, travel enthusiast, and caffeine addict.

Gus makes his home on the coast of South Carolina, where he spends his days in search of merpeople, friendly cats, and interesting pieces of driftwood. He collects ball-jointed dolls, tattoos, and languages. He believes in faeries and thinks they’re terrifying… but still wants to meet one.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Warmest Wishes: Colina de Lavanda by August Li to read and review.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Once in a Lifetime by Cassie Decker – Warmest Wishes

All his life, astrophysicist Peter has dreamed of seeing the comet that last appeared on his birthday—and won’t be seen for another thirty-eight years. Since it could be his only chance, he travels to New Zealand. But his dream might be quashed after all when his rental car breaks down on the way to the observatory. He doesn’t even have a place to stay.

Fortunately a New Zealand native with a heart of gold offers assistance. But is kindness the only thing drawing the two men together?

Rangi can’t leave Peter stranded so close to Christmas, and his family has plenty of room—and love—to share. While Rangi is attracted to Peter, he’s seen too many of his friends get their hearts broken by tourists. Will they manage to see the comet on its decades-long journey across the sky… and take advantage of a rare opportunity that might never come again?

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Advent Calendar Day 18

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I absolutely adored Once in a Lifetime. There was just something so approachable and down-to-earth about both Peter and Rangi and their ‘everything happens for a reason’ attitude that made their story such a delight to read. Although the novelette is written as one continuous story (i.e., no chapters), Decker’s opening paragraph serves as a prologue of sorts that makes it easy to see why this trip is so important to Peter. Obviously, when Peter’s rental car broke down, I couldn’t help but feel bad for him. That it also paved the way for Rangi was a nice touch, but it was Rangi’s continued acts of kindness that had me falling for the young man. Well, that and Rangi’s apparent love for his family and his willingness to do all that he could to help provide for them.

Even though their interaction began as a transaction between a man in desperate need of a ride and a ride-share driver, Rangi quickly proved to be a genuinely nice guy whose desire to help out a weary traveler who couldn’t seem to catch a break ended up being a boon for both him and Peter. While both men acknowledge to themselves an attraction for the other, it is not until Rangi performs a hongi with Peter that the men experience a connection. Understandably, Rangi is hesitant to start anything with Peter, knowing that Peter will only be in New Zealand for a couple of weeks. Fortunately, Rangi finds it hard to resist Peter and his worry over a broken heart is soon eclipsed by his worry that he’ll regret not taking a risk. As much as I enjoyed watching Rangi come to terms with his struggle, it was seeing Peter get to experience being part of a family again and getting to enjoy both the simple pleasures life has to offer as well as the spectacular miracles of the cosmos that made this story such a delight. Just by being themselves, Rangi and his family gave Peter a gift he’d never expected to have again and possibly reset his course in life. At least, I prefer to think that the end of this story is only the beginning for Peter and Rangi.

Cassie Decker started writing love stories once she read her first romance novel in high school and instantly fell in love with falling in love. She believes everyone deserves a happily ever after, whether the men in her stories rope cattle in the rodeo, live in a tropical paradise, or are just trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

When she’s not writing romance, she’s reading it. And if there’s time between that, you can find Cassie getting her geek on with cosplay costumes, comic-cons, and video game binges. Besides being a total nerd, she likes to knit naughty rainbow key-chain charms for her friends, home-brew her own beer, and practice her ukulele. Cassie also loves playing in the Colorado Wilderness with her husband and her corgi pup, Murphy, when she’s not busy obsessing over the fictional men plotting their steamy love stories in her head, that is.

Connect with Cassie

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Warmest Wishes: Once in a Lifetime by Cassie Decker to read and review.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Dedicated by Neve Wilder Blog Tour

“Our greatest hit is a love song I wrote for my bandmate. And he has no idea.”

Messy-haired, soulful-eyed, off-kilter lyricist Les Graves holds tight to the hedonist’s credo of consumption in every avenue of life. He has trouble staying still, trouble staying sober, trouble turning down a good time—but put a pen in his hand, and he’ll set a page on fire.

Music was Evan Porter’s ticket out of the backwater mud puddle he was born in, the passion keeping him warm as he busked on street corners, fueling him through a dead-end bartending job. Every chord, every song, every ounce of sweat has been devoted to making Porter & Graves a success. He’s the level-head, the quiet maestro, the seatbelt that keeps Les from flying too far out of control. And he’s getting pretty tired of playing savior.

Their onstage chemistry is electric, offstage it's… complicated.

After Porter & Graves’s third album bombs, the pressure is on for the duo to redeem themselves with their fourth. While sequestered in an East Tennessee cabin to compose, things take a turn for the worse when an event from their past comes back to haunt them in an embarrassingly public fashion and forces them into an unusual position that tests a partnership already hanging by its bloody roots.

Can Evan and Les find harmony or will they—and their music career—go down in flames?

Dedicated, the first standalone in the Rhythm of Love series, is a steamy bisexual friends-to-lovers romance featuring semi-kinda forced proximity, a fake relationship, angst, snark, a cock-blocking greenhouse, really poor decisions involving social media, and a HEA guarantee.

*Please note: This book contains reference to and depiction of a MMF scene*

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Book 1
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

4 Angsty Stars.

Neve Wilder is a new-to-me author, after reading Dedicated, I'm curious to read novels from the author's backlist, as well as future releases.

Dedicated is a mix of celebrity, rock star yumminess, mixed with the slow-burn of friends-to-lovers romance, all wrapped up in a double unrequited romance featuring a fake relationship that shows them how much they truly mean to one another.

Evan and Les make amazing music together in more ways than one. At the end of their third tour, days before locking themselves in a cabin to bang out their next album, Dedicated takes us on a slow-burn bromance journey.

Les is notorious for drugs, drinking, sex, and rock and roll, putting it all out there for the public at large. He wears his emotions on his sleeve, not caring what others think. Whereas Evan is the complete opposite. He's reserved, introverted, and beyond private. It's a delicate balance that somehow works.

Sparks fly, banter is slung, gut-punch moments had me sucking in a deep breath as the emotions resonated within me, and the sexual tension was off-the-charts smoking hot. Their relationship was real and raw, even with all the duplicity surrounding them.

Not going to lie, I spent the entire day with my nose buried in my Kindle, eagerly tapping the pages and ignoring life, from page one until the end. The only reason I'm passing out 4 instead of 5 stars is simply pacing, as the book felt a bit longer, causing some scenes to feel redundant.

There's a disclaimer at the start of the book about a not too in-depth MFM scene that was pivotal to the plot and character building. While I don't need such a warning, some might. There are mentions and brief showings of MF interactions, but the scene in question was built up over a large portion of the novel, and the payoff was well worth the wait. It was actually my favorite scene in the entire novel, Les and Evan completely overshadowing the woman in their threesome. I may or may not had a palm hiding my face, since my family kept coming in and out of the living room when I was reading the scene in question, and I was a bit hot and bothered and highly entertained.

Both Les and Evan identify with being bisexual, but I do need add that Evan comes off as more of a demisexual, since he can't wrap his mind around lust when it isn't with someone he is emotionally connected with.

Highly recommend to those who enjoy the plot devices I listed above, and I cannot wait to check out what else the author has published.

Neve Wilder lives in the dirty South, where the summers are hot and the winters are... sometimes cold. She is a mom to three rambunctious weebeasts who have joined forces in a mission to carpet the family home with toys and small items that really suck to step on at six in the morning.

She reads promiscuously, across multiple genres, but her favorite stories always contain an element of romance. Incidentally, this is also what she likes to write. Slow-burners with delicious tension? Yes. Whiplash-inducing page-turners, also yes. Down and dirty scorchers? Yes. And every flavor in between.

She believes David Bowie was the sexiest musician to ever live, and she's always game to nerd out on anything from music to writing.

And finally, she believes that love conquers all. Except the heat index in July. Nothing can conquer that bastard.

Connect with Neve

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Wilder's Wild Ones Facebook Group

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Dedicated (Rhythm of Love #1) by Neve Wilder to read and review for this tour.

A Soldier's Wish by N.R. Walker Blog Tour

The year is 1969…

Gary Fairchild is proud to be a hippie college student, and he protests the Vietnam War because he believes in love and peace. To him, it isn’t just a counterculture movement—it’s a way of life. When tickets to the Aquarium Exposition—3 Days of Peace & Music, or Woodstock, as it was better known, go on sale, there’s no way he isn’t going.

Richard Ronsman is a sheltered farm boy who lives in the shadow of his overbearing father. He’s hidden his darkest secret to earn his father’s love, but nothing is ever good enough—not even volunteering for the Vietnam War. And with just a few days left before he’s deployed, a striking hippie invites him to join them at a music festival.

Three days of music, drugs, rain, mud, and love forged a bond between these two very different men that would shape the rest of their lives. They share dreams and fears, and when Richard is shipped off to war, they share letters and love. For Richard’s first Christmas home, he is gifted a special angel ornament that just might make a soldier’s wish come true.

This book is five of seven stories which can all be read and enjoyed in any order.

The Christmas Angel Series

In 1750, a master woodcarver poured all his unrequited love, passion, and longing into his masterpiece—a gorgeous Christmas angel for his beloved’s tree. When the man he loved tossed the angel away without a second thought, a miracle happened. The angel was found by another who brought the woodcarver True Love.

Since then, the angel has been passed down, sold, lost and found, but its magic remains. Read the romances inspired by (and perhaps nudged along by) the Christmas angel through the years. Whether it’s 1700s England (Eli Easton's Christmas Angel), the 1880’s New York (Kim Fielding’s Summerfield’s Angel), the turn-of-the-century (Jordan L. Hawk’s Magician’s Angel), World War II (L.A. Witt’s Christmas Homecoming), Vietnam-era (N.R. Walker’s Soldier’s Wish), the 1990s (Anyta Sunday’s Shrewd Angel), or 2018 (RJ Scott’s Christmas Prince), the Christmas angel has a way of landing on the trees of lonely men who need its blessing for a very Merry Christmas and forever HEA.

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Book 5
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

This is a wonderful 1960s coming of age story. Hippie student Gary and farm boy turned Vietnam soldier Richard meet by chance in a roadside diner. Richard’s world turns upside down and technicolour when he decides to accompany Gary and his friends to Woodstock. The rest of the story follows the unlikely romance between a soldier and a hippie.

Richard’s wide-eyed innocence at Woodstock captured my heart and made me laugh. I love how Richard and Gary’s relationship develops through their letters. I love that their struggles turn them from boys to men. This story is an emotional ride and I really couldn’t put it down.

Technically, this book shouldn’t work. I could quite easily pick apart structure, pacing and continuity issues. I’m a huge fan, but this is not NR Walker’s tightest writing. Fortunately, the story itself makes up for any other issues. I found myself so engrossed in Richard and Gary’s story that I didn’t even consider the actual writing until after I’d finished the book. In a single sitting.

This is a really, really lovely book. It is beautifully set in its time, and gives both insight and clarity about the views and politics of that era. By concentrating on Gary and Richard’s experiences of war and their romance in a time of intolerance, we get a love story that overcomes many obstacles. Gary’s resolute intent to wait for Richard and for them to be together is perfect.

I also love that Kat is a firm friend and prepared to go to any length to support her friend and his lover.

Worthy recipients of the angel; this is an excellent Christmas story. Thank you, N.R. Walker.

N.R. Walker is an Australian author, who loves her genre of gay romance. She loves writing and spends far too much time doing it, but wouldn’t have it any other way.

She is many things: a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who live in her head, who don’t let her sleep at night unless she gives them life with words. She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things... but likes it even more when they fall in love.

She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal.

She’s been writing ever since...

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of A Soldier's Wish (The Christmas Angel #5) by N.R. Walker to read and review for this tour.

Tall, Dark and Stormy by Mickey Miller

Sorority Secrets: The virgins of Beta Kappa Nu would do anything for each other. Even auction off their most valuable asset…

They say I’m a rich, bitter a**hole who isn’t capable of normal feelings.

Well, they say a lot of things.

And they don’t know shit.

You don’t become a billionaire without a strain of obsession bubbling within you. Strong and true, like a deep blue pilot light.

It’s true, I don’t suffer fools. And I don’t have time to become emotionally involved.

I loved once before. This is my curse. It keeps me focused.

Until I see Stacy’s ad. The office intern, auctioning off her virginity for charity, right there on the screen.

A gorgeously seductive photo, followed by some of the dirtiest erotic fantasies I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

And they’re about me. Her boss.

I’ll be damned if one of these tasteless men with no appreciation for this smart, beautiful angel will be her first.

If anyone has her, it’s going to be me.

Like I said, I’m a man of obsession.

For those times when size does matter. The Dirty Bits from Carina Press: quick and dirty, just the way we like it.

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

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Book 4
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Carina Press – Harlequin

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Avid Reader☆☆☆☆
3.5 stars
M/F Fantasy Romance

Virgins auctioning off themselves in order to raise money to help a good cause... this is what Mr. H sees when he scans his employee computer data base, checking up on his people.

Stacy is an intern at Mr. H's company and she has fantasized about her boss for months. She is writing a story about her fantasy.

When Mr. H calls Stacy into his office, he knows that he is wildly out of control. Despite that, he can't help himself.

This is a darker storyline than the other Sorority stories – both of these characters have painful pasts. I do wish that there was more character development. This is mostly their hookups and not much about their relationship. It's still entertaining, but it's really just about their physical relationship.

Stacy, being a part of Beta Kappa Nu, has agreed to auction off her virginity to raise money for their sister's brother. Stacy, just like the others, put her ad up using an alias. She's scared who will win the bid for her. Working as an intern, she only has eyes for her sexy boss. She never expected that he would know about her crush but when he calls her into his office, she's terrified.

Jack was in love once, but he's never wanted to experience the hurt he had in that relationship. What he's not expecting while watching his employees’ computer access is seeing his intern working on an ad to auction off her virginity. That only has him shocked, but seeing he stars in her very vivid fantasy has him needing her in his office asap.

Tall, Dark and Stormy is a quick sexy read. I was intrigued by Jack and would love to see a novel on his character. Definitely the perfect sized book to be able to finish when you don't have a ton of time.

Mickey is one of seven men who are members of the Romance Writers of America. He loves playing sports, performing improv, and pineapples. After trying his hand at screenwriting, he found his passion being one of a handful of guys who writes over-the-top contemporary romance novels. He lives in Chicago, IL and yes, his Grandmother knows what he does for a living. But she keeps it on the DL.

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Mickey’s Misfits Facebook Group

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Tall, Dark and Stormy (Sorority Secrets #4) by Mickey Miller to read and review.

A Holiday Tradition by Chrissy Munder – Warmest Wishes

Paul Carpenter has his life all planned out. Or at least his father does. The right school, the right degree, the right job. Paul is on track, until a bus accident has him sitting out a coveted internship, babysitting, or being babysat, by a grandfather he barely remembers during his holiday stay in a Florida RV park. His father’s reasoning? How much temptation can Paul find around a bunch of senior citizens playing bingo? There’ll be nothing to distract him from his studies.

It’s hard to muster his holiday spirit when Paul is used to snow and cold, not sun, surf, and plastic flamingos in Santa hats. But then Paul meets Kevin Lombardo, who offers to show him some new holiday traditions. Suddenly Paul’s fast track hits a curve.

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Advent Calendar Day 17

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

This is a really fun, and very cute short story. I love that we get the background to Paul's life as he is travelling with his grandfather to Florida. So we are completely on board when we get to meet Kevin and imagine how Paul's life could be.

If you need a chuckle, then the fun times at the RV park over Christmas will definitely get you in the right mood. Old people and romance are always fun – and the much younger Paul and Kevin give the heat that warms the heart.

Chrissy Munder writes contemporary M/M romance filled with everyday men and extraordinary passion to transport readers into their personal world of love, laughter, and desire. She is an avid reader, a wanderer of Michigan’s wilderness, and, while not in any particular order, a lover of lists, zombies, and bad sci-fi. She’s also perpetually behind on everything—except feeding the cat.

There are those who might tell you she started writing LGBTQ romance as a way to justify her office supply addiction, but shhhhh! don’t listen to them.

After too many jobs in too many states she’s eagerly awaiting a far too distant retirement and the chance to become a full-time Lake Michigan beachcomber. Until then, she’s excited to share her love of romance, laughter, and happy-ever-afters.

Chrissy loves to chat with her readers so don't be shy! Visit her on Twitter, her website, Facebook, or Goodreads.

Connect with Chrissy

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Warmest Wishes: A Holiday Tradition by Chrissy Munder to read and review.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Make A Circle by Elliot Joyce – Warmest Wishes

Pagan punk musician Lucas is fully prepared to spend this Yule with the rest of the band and his beautiful bass guitar when Oliver, his boyfriend of almost a year, asks if he wants to join the rest of the Han family for their annual winter celebration. It comes as a shock since Ollie has gone to great lengths to keep the two apart, and Lucas always assumed he was the reason. Since they’re planning to be together long-term, Lucas can't say no to meeting Ollie’s parents, but he better brush up on his manners and his Mandarin because this is going to be a holiday season like no other—and it has some surprises in store for both of them.

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Advent Calendar Day 16

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

One of the things I have really enjoyed about this year’s selection of stories in Dreamspinner Press’ Advent Calendar is the exposure to the holiday traditions of cultures I don’t typically get to read or think to seek out to read. Make a Circle is one such story. I enjoyed getting to learn about the tangyuan competition among the women in Oliver’s family, as well as watching Lucas struggle with making tangyuan alongside the youngest of the children. I found that scene not only endearing, but quite telling about Lucas as his frustration was with the dough itself and not with the fact that his skill level was equivalent to that of the children – something to be expected as it was his first time making it, but sadly a situation that has caused more than one adult male to lose his cool. Even if I hadn’t already liked Lucas, that simple scene would have sealed the deal for me and made me understand exactly why Oliver loved him.

Oliver, on the other hand, was a bit more difficult to get to know. Granted, having the story told from Lucas’ point of view made it easier to connect with him than with Oliver. However, at times, Oliver was so distant and aloof that were it not so obvious he was uncomfortable around his family, it would have made me question if he actually liked Lucas, much less loved him. But Oliver’s obvious affection for Lucas was easy to see when the two were alone and his explanation as to why he was so tense around his family helped explain his distance. My feelings toward Oliver softened over the course of the story as I saw him display the typical embarrassment at his parents’ doting attention, saw his discomfort when older family members misgendered him, and then saw him try to calm himself when those same family members apologized for doing so because of their bad memories due to old age. But ultimately it was Oliver’s emotional breakdown after his argument with his future brother-in-law that chipped away the last bits of my reservations. It was then that I realized Oliver was trying so hard not to let past family slights and prejudices bother him that he didn’t realize that he was shutting out his biggest ally and supporter, Lucas. I was so relieved when Oliver realized how his aloofness was affecting Lucas and that the two were able to talk it out, learn what was going on in the other’s head, and move forward as a united front, taking strength in one another’s presence as a couple should. Despite its short length, Joyce manages to pack a lot of emotion into the story and I loved how the ending pointed toward a long life together full of communication, compromise, and love.

ELLIOT JOYCE is a social-media obsessed, selfie-taking millennial and he’s proud of it. He can usually be found in his room playing D&D or in a theater lurking on the catwalks. Sometimes he even writes.

Other notable facts include the fact that he’s bisexual, he cannot juggle, and he regularly trips over thin air. Catch him on tumblr or really any social media, he spends enough time on it.

Connect with Elliot

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Warmest Wishes: Make A Circle by Elliot Joyce to read and review.