With spring in full swing, and rainy days almost a certainty, May is a wonderful time to snuggle up with a book! I have two recommendations for you this month that feature strong and resilient women—a perfect gift for any woman in your life.

My first recommendation is a contemporary country romance, The Better Man, by Laurie Lewis. Laramee Stone has faced tragedy in her life and family. But when her father’s health declines, she finally comes home to the family ranch to try and pick up the broken pieces. Before she arrives, she meets a man, Jamie Cannon, who has been asked to appraise the ranch so it can be sold. This is a shock to Laramee who wants to keep the ranch in the family. Jamie’s job plants a wedge between them, but they decide to call a truce until the appraisal is done. While they are waiting for soil samples and other tests to come back, they both begin to make some repairs to the ranch and get to know each other better. As their friendship grows, however, so does the jealousy of Laramee’s ex-fiance, who wants nothing more than for Jamie to leave. The longer Jamie stays, though, the more his feelings grow for Laramee. But who is the better man for her?

This is a slow burn romance between two people who have survived a lot of emotional turmoil. Laramee and Jamie build a solid friendship while they are both healing, though Laramee is torn trying to decide whether she truly loves her ex-fiance, or whether she could actually see a future with Jamie. The author does a wonderful job of showing Laramee’s strength of character as she navigates through difficult emotions from a tragedy in her past to hopefully carve out a future filled with love and happiness. Jamie is kind and patient, using the lessons he’s learned from difficult relationships to help her. He also has struggles of his own to deal with, but he works hard to make them stepping-stones in his life and not stumbling blocks. There are some wonderful moments of laughter and sharing along with experiences of healing and forgiveness. A truly sweet and heartwarming romance.

The Better Man, published by Willowsport Press, 294 pages, available in paperback and ebook.

My second recommendation is a Victorian gothic mystery romance, The Orchids of Ashthorne Hall by Rebecca Anderson. Hyacinth Bell is an expert on orchids and she’s been asked to come to Ashthorne Hall to care for a rare collection. But the nearly empty manor is said to have ghosts roaming the halls and Hyacinth is sure she sees one. As Hyacinth begins to investigate, she meets the manor’s caretaker, Lucas Harding. She has an instant connection to him, but soon realizes he’s keeping secrets from her. The closer Hyacinth gets to the truth, the more danger she finds herself in. Can she trust Lucas to help her figure out once and for all who is haunting the halls of Ashthorne?

This mystery has just enough toe-curling tension to keep the pages flying long into the night. Readers will love the spooky feel as Hyacinth ventures into the forbidden parts of the manor to follow a ghost and expose the secrets the manor is keeping. Her romance with Lucas may be quick, but their attachment sets in motion events that soon make it essential that they trust each other as danger closes in on every side. Hyacinth is a strong, independent character who is very relatable as she truly loves and cares for the plants, as well as the people around her. She is also brave in the face of danger, especially when those she’s come to love are threatened. Readers will enjoy her courage and tenacity throughout the story. The author has expertly woven in the history of the time period with this atmospheric, unique, and absorbing mystery that will keep readers wondering what will happen next right up until the very last page!

The Orchids of Ashthorne Hall by Rebecca Anderson, published by Shadow Mountain Publishing, 287 pages, available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook.