Judy Nickles is a retired teacher, genealogist, traveler, British crime-drama fan, ghost tour- taker, and writer who has been spinning tales since she could hold a #2 pencil in her fat little fist. She writes “vintage romance”, stories spanning the First World War through the 50s, and also contemporary romantic suspense and cozy mysteries. After 5 traditionally-published books, she “went indie” with two series. She is proof that an old dog can learn new tricks—her laptop and her Kindle Fire are her favorite possessions. She is not aging quietly but rather having her adolescent rebellion 50+ years late: witness her forking over to fly in a World War II B-24 bomber built the year she was born. (You figure it out!). She has an alter ego as Mimi of four, one of whom had better turn out to be a writer before years of filed clippings and ideas make a bonfire for her less-imaginative sons.
Where Is Papa’s Shining Star? (Romance/Mystery)
Wealthy Alan Ashley, blinded in World War I, returns home to face a challenge to his ability to run the family business. As the case goes to court, he finds himself drawn to the cheerful, ever-optimistic Lenore Seldon, his defense attorney’s secretary. When he wins his case, he offers her employment, but she declines and disappears from his life.
Ten years later, frail and in desperate need of work, Lenore answers his ad for a personal assistant. He hires her with the agreement that she will live in, chaperoned by his housekeeper, so that she can drive for him, and he can teach her to use the Braille writer. She is the perfect employee, but he senses that she is frightened of something—or someone.
When he finds himself falling in love with her, he must uncover her secrets in order to save their relationship—and to save her from herself.
On Thursday night, she read aloud from the newspaper, and then they listened to the radio.
Alan leaned forward in his chair, his feet keeping time to the music. “Do you dance, Miss Seldon?”
“Oh, yes, all my friends danced at school parties.”
“I haven’t danced in years. I don’t suppose you’d indulge me?”
“There’s hardly room in here, Mr. Ashley.”
“We could turn up the radio and go into the foyer.”
“I’m not sure I remember how.”
“Neither am I, but I’d like to try, wouldn’t you?”
He stood for a moment in the middle of the foyer to orient himself, then held out his arms and was rewarded with the feel of Lenore Seldon stepping into them. Careful not to hold her too closely, he said, “All right, on the next beat.” They moved off, not quite in time to the music.
“Is it coming back to you?” he asked.
“I think so.”
“The tempo is nice, but I believe we’re a bit behind. Shall we pick it up?” He quickened his steps as he spoke. “Are you keeping watch for obstacles?”
“Yes…oh, Mr. Ashley, the stairs!” She finished her warning as his heel met the bottom step, and he toppled, pulling her down with him into his lap.
For a long shocked moment they sat still, breathing harder than the exercise warranted. She was lighter than he’d supposed, but her hair, when he reached to touch it, was as silky as he’d imagined. Sliding his hands to her cheeks, he brought her face forward
until their lips touched.
He thought she responded briefly, but, before he could speak, she jumped from his arms and ran up the stairs.
Finding Papa’s Shining Star (Romance/Mystery)
In the dark days of the Great Depression, when eleven-year-old Bobbie Rycroft becomes Annie Ashley, cherished daughter of Alan and Lenore, she leaves behind a life of fear and deprivation. Or so she believes as she grows to womanhood, sheltered in an affluent home with every material possession and opportunity. Graduating from Vassar just as America gears up for war, she enters into a hasty marriage with David Levinson only ten days before he goes overseas. When he returns, they are strangers.
David loves Annie deeply, but he realizes that she cannot live in the present until she has made peace with her past. When he urges her to find Albert Rycroft’s shining star, she insists that Bobbie is dead. But David knows that Bobbie is very much alive and that his own tangled connection to her past could put Annie in danger of losing her life.
He stopped and looked away from her, then back. “I wasn’t sure you’d wait for me.”
She felt her face flame. “I’m your wife, David.”
“We didn’t have much of a marriage. Ten days, and from what I remember, we spent most of that time in bed. We can’t spend the rest of our lives there.”
“I always wondered if that’s why you married me,” she said before she thought. “Because you couldn’t get me any other way.”
“Is that what you thought?”
“Well, you said. . .”
“I know what I said, but you had a choice, didn’t you?”
“I guess so. Yes.”
“Well assuming that I married you because I wanted you, why did you marry me?”
Her mind raced frantically for some kind of answer that would be honest but not heartless. David would know if she was lying. Taking a deep breath and expelling it slowly to buy time, she said, “I don’t know, David.”
“I didn’t think you did. Do you want a divorce?”
“You haven’t been home but a few hours. I don’t think this is the time to discuss anything so. . .so final.”
“When do you think it will be time?”
“What do you want, David?”
“You, Annie. Just you. I was in love with you. I still am.”
“We hardly knew each other.”
“I remember telling you once that love can’t be explained. It just happens.”
“I think we’re both overwhelmed right now.”
David shook his head. “I’m not. I spent two years just trying to stay alive, and I made it. The fact doesn’t overwhelm me, just gives me a great satisfaction that I beat those monsters. I’m not going to waste a minute of the rest of my life, not after what I’ve been
Dancing with Velvet (Historical Romance)
Celeste believes she’s met the man of her dreams under the twinkling lights of the Roof Garden, but what she doesn’t know about the handsome bombardier may turn out to be her worst nightmare.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt concluded his request to Congress for a declaration of war on Japan with the words, With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God. Inevitably, not only the armed forces but the people at home would be fighting, too…though different battles on a different front.
In the waning days of the Great Depression, Celeste Riley wonders if life will always be the same: going to work and coming home to keep house for her widowed father who ignores her. She clings to her married sister, Coralee, and the recurring dream of a blue velvet curtain and a faceless lover who beckons her beyond it. Then a blue velvet dress in the window of a local department store seems to promise the change in her life she so desperately longs for. When she dances in the arms of Kent Goddard at the Roof Garden, she is sure she has found the man of her dreams and is crushed when he disappears from her life. Soon after Pearl Harbor propels the United States into war, he returns in uniform as a student at the new bombardier training school. Inevitably, a wartime separation threatens their deepening relationship. Then Celeste realizes that what she doesn’t know about the man of her dreams may become her worst nightmare.
With Kent overseas, Celeste fights her own war with pride, self-deprecation, and the need to forgive. Before he comes home…if he comes home…she knows she has to win.
She begged off from the Canteen and made baked chicken and dressing for their last evening together, putting aside her qualms about being alone in the house with Kent and trying not to think of Claudia and her little boy. After they ate by candlelight, he dried the dishes as she washed. “We’re playing house,” he said.
His hand caressed her shoulders and moved low on her back. “Or something.”
She shivered. “We can go sit in the parlor and listen to the radio.”
“If we were married, we wouldn’t have to sit in the parlor.”
“We’re not married.”
“I love you, Velvet. I need you. Need you like a man needs a woman.”
She moved away from him a few steps. “Don’t, Kent.”
He picked up the dishtowel again. “I’m not going to attack you,” he said. The bitterness in his voice unsettled her.
“I know that.”
“But I meant what I said. A little hand-holding and kissing doesn’t go a long way toward…”
He tossed the dishtowel on the cabinet and stalked out of the kitchen. She found him leaning on the porch railing, staring into the dusk. “Maybe we should go to the Canteen and dance,” she said.
“Maybe you should just drive me back to the field.”
“It’s your last night, Kent. I don’t want to spoil it with a fight.”
“That’s what I’m fixing to do, you know, fight. Maybe it’ll be from an airplane where I can’t see them, but I’m still going to kill people, and they’re going to try to kill me.”
She slipped her arms around his waist from behind him. He jerked away. “Don’t be a tease, Velvet. Claudia sure was.”
The Face on Miss Fanny’s Wall (Romance/Suspense)
After recognizing her great-grandmother’s picture on the wall of a restored bordello-turned-visitor center, Tessa Steele sets out to track down exactly how Hallie became one of Miss Fanny’s ‘ladies’. Threatening phone calls and letters warning her that Nosy little girls get into trouble become the least of her worries when she meets Sgt. Dale McCord, a state police officer investigating a series of so-called ‘hauntings’ at Miss Fanny’s. Caught between her own curiosity about Miss Fanny’s and Dale’s disapproval, she goes ahead with her research. Each time she uncovers a new piece of information, she faces an even more sinister threat as well as Dale’s unexplained anger. She’s as determined to learn the truth as someone is to stop her. And Dale is determined to keep her alive—if he can.
On Monday afternoon, after dumping Lynn on our doorstep after school, I raced back to the courthouse before it closed at five. Within half an hour, I had a copy of Miss Fanny’s death certificate and her eight-page will and scuttled out just ahead of closing time. In my excitement, I ran up against the broad chest in a tan uniform.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “I…”
“Well, well, Miss Nancy Drew.”
I looked up into Dale McCord’s dark eyes, and my heart turned over.
“Oh,” I said, tightening my guilty grip on the papers in my hand, “it’s you.”
“What have you got there?”
“None of your business.”
He laughed. “I could arrest you.”
“On what grounds?”
“Interfering with an investigation.”
“You wouldn’t do that…would you?”
“If you keep on like you have been, you’ll be safer locked up in jail than on the streets.”
“What do you mean?”
“I know about your little sortie with Sandra Broome last weekend, and I’m guessing those papers you’re clutching to your heaving bosom have something to do with Miss Fanny.”
My temper rose. “You don’t have time to call me, but you’re spying on me?”
“I was out of town.”
“So you say.”
He shrugged. “And I needed some time to cool off after what happened.”
“I hope giving me the silent treatment for two weeks helped.”
He took my arm, a little roughly. “You’re playing with fire, Tessa. I don’t want to see you get burned.”
“Trite, trite, trite,” I taunted him.
He shook me a little. “I’ve asked you nicely. Now I’m telling you. Stay the hell away from that place.”
“Don’t talk to me like that. You have no right…”
He tightened his grip on my arm and pulled me down the steps. “Where are you parked?”
“In the back.”
Once he’d practically thrown me in my car, he said, “I need a woman, Tessa, not a little girl who plays games. If you ever grow up, let me know.”
“Don’t hold your breath,” I shot back.
He whirled and strode away. I wanted to run after him, tell him I was sorry, that I could be everything he wanted and needed. I had my hand on the door when my wounded pride kicked in and kept me frozen behind the wheel until he’d disappeared around the side of the courthouse.
The Showboat Affair (Romance)
Despite over thirty years in a faithless marriage to wealthy investment broker Rand Kingston, Jean is shocked when he asks for a divorce. Encouraged by her former housekeeper-turned-best-friend, she determines to rediscover herself as an independent woman and move on with her life. Nick Cameron, prominent attorney and long-time widower, would like to figure in her plans. The opposition of their adult children surprises them. Then, a series of chilling near misses makes them wonder who really is determined to keep them apart—and why.
After thirty years in a faithless marriage to wealthy investment broker Rand Kingston, Jean is still shocked when he demands a divorce. Refusing to crater under the blow, she determines to rediscover herself as an independent woman by taking her degree in interior design out of mothballs. Prominent attorney and long-time widower Nick Cameron would like to be part of her new life. The opposition of their adult children and a series of chilling near-misses points to the fact that someone wants to keep Nick and Jean apart. They’ve found a second chance at love, and now they’re running for their lives. From Houston, Texas, to Branson, Missouri, this fast-paced romantic suspense will keep you running with them.
Jean, still wearing her gown and robe, mixed the batter for waffles while Nick washed up in the guest bath and used one of her disposable razors and leg cream to shave. “I used my finger as a toothbrush,” he said, cozying up behind her to kiss her neck.
She shivered. “Not before breakfast.”
“And not after dinner either, apparently.” He laughed.
“You’re skating a thin line.” But she laughed, too.
He put up his hands in a gesture of surrender. “I need coffee.”
“It’s ready, and the waffle iron is hot, so you’ll have breakfast in a minute.”
The peal of the doorbell startled both of them. “This could look bad,” Nick said.
“Not if it’s Selina. Maybe it’s her. She went to look at some of those ice cream parlor tables I was telling you about last week.” Jean eyed him critically. “Button your shirt.”
“It’s pretty rumpled.”
“Button it anyway.” She brushed past him on her way to the door. “Maybe you should disappear.”
“Are you serious?”
Jean sighed. “No.” At the front door, she peered through the viewer and let out her breath in dismay. Juliana stood there, her jaw set, looking primed for battle. Jean unlocked the door and opened it. “What brings you here so early, Juliana?”
“I had some errands over this way. Aren’t you going to ask me in?”
Jean stepped back. “Yes, of course. Come in. I have a guest.”
Juliana’s eyebrows met her hairline. “A guest? I am interfering with your sleeping arrangements then.”
Jean made a quick decision not to defend herself. “Come in the kitchen. I’m making waffles.”
Nick rose hastily as the women walked in.
“You must be Nick Cameron,” Juliana snapped.
“My mother’s lover.”
“Juliana!” Jean felt the blood drain from her face. “How dare you!”
Nick’s eyes flashed, but his voice was courtroom courteous. “I spent the night on the sofa.”
“Of course, you did.”
His mouth twitched. “But if I’d spent it in your mother’s bed, it would have been her business, not yours.”
Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland: The Dreamland Series (Mystery)
What’s the Ghost of Al Capone Doing in Dreamland, Arkansas? Newly-widowed Trixie Collier Blake returns to her barely-remembered hometown to see the building left to her by a grandfather she doesn’t remember at all. A series of threats which the police chief won’t take seriously threatens to drive her out of town. Can she trust attorney Mitch Langley, whose father Guy is accepted as being behind the threats? Will Danny Jefferson, a young man who doesn’t let his Down syndrome define him, be able to lend her some of his courage and determination? Or will Trixie follow her gut instincts to get out of town before it’s too late?
Under the Silv’ry Moon: The Dreamland Series, Book II (Mystery)
Trixie’s ready to open her new business on the second floor of the possibly-haunted Quimby Building, She’s established an uneasy truce with Police Chief Doug Everton–after all, they have a mutual secret to guard. Her high school chum Rudy and his wife are back together after Dee managed to cut loose from the bunch trying to take over downtown Dreamland. Dee’s younger brother Danny, who doesn’t let his Down Syndrome define him, is ready to move on from his hero status acquired when he rescued Trixie from the tunnels snaking beneath the town, and has discovered a latent talent for photography. And Trixie’s and Mitch’s budding friendship is at the point of blooming. Unfortunately, they’re all wrong in thinking the recent dirty dealings are over and done with.
Enter two FBI agents, one of whom accuses his partner of being ‘rogue’; Rudy’s ex-army buddy Ross Carrow who runs the Moonlight Tattoo Parlor; and forensic anthropologist Sean Mercer whose curiosity may end up killing more than the proverbial cat. The second floor of the Quimby Building, once the Castle Casino and soon to be Trixie’s Treasures, becomes a hotbed of oozing secrets and dangerous doings. Can Trixie dig in her heels one more time? Does she even want to?
Come with the Love Light Gleaming: The Dreamland Series, Book III (Mystery)
Just when Trixie thinks her new start in Dreamland AR may be moving on, her mother announces she’s returning, too, to open a bed and breakfast in the old family home. Maybe she can deal with Lucy but she’s not even going to try to deal with City Council Woman Daphne Carter’s toothy son Alan who seems to think he knows better than Trixie what’s good for the historic building bequeathed to her by her grandfather. And she’s not sure her definition of moving on is what Mitch Langley has in mind. They’ve been best friends since she arrived, but is she ready to be more?
Between the new police chief, the paranormal team Candace King brings in to hunt for ghosts in Al Capone’s old bootlegging tunnels, Danny Jefferson’s candid photos which are definitely worth more than a thousand words, and forensic anthropologist Sean Mercer’s dogged curiosity, Trixie can’t catch a break.
And somebody somewhere has a bone to pick with Trixie’s relatives. Most of them are dead–but Trixie’s not, and that’s enough for that somebody.
The Dreamland Boxed Set (Mystery)
Lipstick messages on the mirror, burning animal entrails on the back doorstep, Al Capone’s ghost and dead bodies on the second floor of her building and who-knows-what going on in the mysterious tunnels underneath it, a police chief and a few others who just want her out of town or maybe even dead—will newly-widowed Trixie Blake dig in her heels or run for her life?
Still reeling after the death of the love of her life, Capt. Ned Blake, USAF, Trixie Collier Blake returns to her barely-remembered hometown of Dreamland, Arkansas, to check out the building willed to her by her grandfather. Almost immediately she encounters a series of menacing threats and then learns of her family’s connection to notorious gangster Al Capone during his heyday.
In fact, he seems to be still hanging around the Quimby Building as evidenced by odd noises on the second floor and the pervasive smell of cigar smoke.
She meets attorney Mitch Langley, a widower, who identifies with her grief struggle because he’s been there-done that and has the scars to prove it. Unfortunately, Trixie knows, but can’t prove, it’s Mitch’s father Guy who’s trying to pry her loose from the building and get her out of Dreamland.
The chance discovery of a maze of tunnels beneath the town, an old mine put to other uses during Prohibition, deepens one mystery and leads to another. But Trixie digs in her heels, taking a page from the playbook of young Danny Jefferson, who doesn’t let his Down Syndrome define him, and who knows more about what goes on in Dreamland than anybody suspects.
Then, just when Trixie thinks she’s home free, someone from her family’s past, now bent on revenge, threatens to do what Guy Langley and Al Capone’s tunnels couldn’t.
The Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series: The Bogus Biker (Mystery)
A police raid (led by her son) on the Sit-n-Swill where Penelope is having a beer and a Reuben with her father, a devastating fire at her ex-husband’s historic home, and a game of cat-and-mouse with a stranger who is about as much a biker as Penelope is a belly dancer, turns Penelope’s placid life upside down.
The Stubborn Schoolhouse Spirit: Penelope Pembroke, Book II (Mystery)
When Penelope agrees to help her best friend Mary Lynn Hargrove, the mayor’s wife, renovate the town’s first school as a community center, she discovers the old building isn’t quite as empty as it appears. Mary Lynn hears voices, and light bulbs and even flashlights go instantly dark at the bottom of the 13 steps leading to the basement. Is the town’s founding father Jeremiah Bowden, who built the school, still around? Or his sister, Miss Daisy, the first teacher? Or is it someone—or something—more sinister? Then Sam telephones unexpectedly and tells Penelope to stay away from the place, but he won’t tell her why. When she decides not to take his advice, she discovers she’s rolled out a blueprint not for remodeling but for disaster.
The Feed Store Floozy: Penelope Pembroke, Book III (Mystery)
A former Amaryllis resident returns to open an antique store in a building which has had many lives, including a saloon/parlor house, but Penelope and the other residents of the town aren’t counting on the murder and mayhem he brings with him.
Penelope has known Mayor Harry Hargrove all her life and his wife Mary Lynn since high school. But maybe she doesn’t know them as well as she thinks. Why are they so upset when former Amaryllis resident Brice Dolan returns to open an antique store in one of Main Street’s many empty buildings, when it can only help the small town’s struggling economy? That the building has had many lives—feed store, grocery store, and saloon—isn’t unusual. Even what went on upstairs during its saloon days isn’t that surprising, so why are Harry and Mary Lynn so on edge? Penelope has to wonder—but she isn’t counting on the murder and mayhem Brice brings with him.
The Possum Hollow Hullabaloo: Penelope Pembroke, Book IV
Possum Hollow has existed outside Amaryllis for as long as anyone can remember. It’s a dark place with dark secrets, and outsiders aren’t welcome. The elementary school which has sprung up inside the impenetrable wall separating the people of the Hollow from the town, struggles to show the children there’s a better life outside. Soon after Penelope and Mary Lynn volunteer to fill in for an absent faculty member, one of the students and her little sister accidentally lead police to a fresh grave deep in the woods. And Miss Maude Pendleton, who scared generations of high school seniors into reading Shakespeare and Chaucer, faces the necessity of learning a whole new curriculum if she wants to stay alive. Penelope keeps the B&B slick as a whistle, but now she’s in the middle of a mess she’s not sure anyone can clean up.
The Larcenous Legacy: Penelope Pembroke, Book V (Mystery)
Young Fr. Kristopher Dombrowski brings a breath of fresh air to the historic parish of St. Hyacinth. Accompanying him are his widowed sister Ivana and her son Will. But another member of the family seems bent on making trouble, and it’s all connected with an ordination gift Fr. Kris received from his grandfather, a post-WW II immigrant to the U.S. from Poland. When the chalice keeps turning up in the museum taking shape in the old school, now a community center, Penelope isn’t sure what’s going on—or who to trust.
Sam’s Last Stand: Penelope Pembroke, Book VI (Mystery)
Sam has promised Penelope he’ll be back to stay, but when he comes back and gets in the middle of a kidnap investigation, she realizes she doesn’t really know him after all. He blurts out the truth about his tortured past, but he can’t let it go, and Penelope can’t live with it, no matter how much she loves him. Events spiral out of control, and Penelope finds herself face to face with Sam in a moment of decision for them both. Each must take a stand. Can they find common ground? Or, like Custer, will they both go down fighting?
The Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mysteries Boxed Set (Mystery)
Meet Penelope Pembroke, owner of the best (only) B&B in Amaryllis, Arkansas (pop.5492)who’s
flirting with 50 (read ‘You’re as young as you feel’.) divorced (read ‘Travis Pembroke, cotton entrepreneur, had a wandering eye’.) mother of Detective Bradley Pembroke of the Amaryllis PD (read ‘She wishes he understood her as well as she understands him’.) apple of her father Jake Kelley’s eye (read ‘She wouldn’t trade him for two spotted pups.’) best friend of Mary Lynn Hargrove, the mayor’s wife (read ‘They’ve known each other since high school and know each other inside out’.) and the only human creature tolerated by Abijah, the 18-pound orange tabby who stalks the family home-turned B&B.
Penelope keeps her ear to the ground, her eyes open, and her battered heart in solitary confinement. Then one night, while having a beer and a Reuben at the seedy-though-popular Sit-n-Swill, she meets Tiny aka Sam who is about as much of a biker as she is a belly dancer.
She insists on dabbling in danger and disaster despite Sam’s best efforts to discourage her. The fireworks begin in Book 1, light up the skies in Books 2,3,4, and 5, and end in one spectacularly explosive display in Book 6.