These books are a real treat. I haven't read all of them yet, but I just finished The Christmas Quilt, a nice short little novel just right for the season.
But let me back up and describe the series as a whole.
Each one has a bit of a mystery, or at least some suspense. You either find out some bit of the past that was previously unknown, or you are drawn along by the story, worried about how it will turn out. Frequently both.
The author has woven the modern world with the past in a very interesting way, so the books satisfy our yearning for something a bit old fashioned, but seem new and exciting at the same time.
The stories center around an older woman named Sylvia who returns to her childhood home after 50 years' absence. She intends to sell it and move back to wherever she's been living for the past 50 years -- she only comes back when they can't find another heir. But a younger woman in the town, Sarah, convinces her to start a quilt camp. The first book gives the reader a glimpse at why Sylvia has been gone so long and develops the relationship between the two women.
Subsequent novels deal with the past residents of Elm Creek Manor, Sylvia's family and ancestors, and the on-going relationships of it's current residents, who form a new kind of family, those not all related by blood but by a common bond of friendship and love.
I want to point out that I am not a quilter. Never made a quilte in my life. You don't have to be a quilter to enjoy these books. The small amount of quilting lingo that you'll need to understand to enjoy these books is woven into the story (Sarah, the younger main character, is a novice quilter at the beginning, so we learn along with her).
These books are like spending an evening with a close group of friends. They contain something for everything -- a bit of history, suspense and a bit of mystery, romance, friendship, family, and love.
If you're looking for a gift for a woman in your life, these might be a great choice. There are two volumes (An Elm Creek Quilts Sampler and An Elm Creek Quilts Album, in that order) that each contain 3 of the novels, so you might want to look for those if you're buying for someone who hasn't read any of them. There are also a couple of books with patterns in them, for the quilter on your list who has already read the books.