PETTICOATS AND PISTOLS
Kate Whittaker's inventions have rocked Hog's Head, Indiana with explosions and confusion, but she's sure her carpet sweeper will make a fortune once it's patented. When the Federal Patent Office notifies her that someone has applied for the identical patent, she's sure her idea has been stolen.
Inventor Jonas Walker hopes his fertilizer spreader will gain him the funds he needs. When he loses his patent to a woman, he knows that somehow she has stolen his idea and he travels to Hog's Head to prove it.
Jonas discovers that Kate is an eccentric from a family of eccentrics. Her near-deaf Aunt Hattie runs the general store, constantly confuses orders and is preparing for war against the new Sears and Roebuck mail-order catalog.
The unusual family, with the houseful of devices, gives Jonas plenty of material as he searches for his proof. But the closer he gets to Kate, the less he's able to keep his mind on inventions.
A parade of inventions appears in Ms. Brownley's charming story, but none more interesting than the explosions these two characters create. This warm-hearted story will hold a special place on readers' shelves. SWEET (July, 384 pp., $4.99)