Susan Wiggs, Author . Mira $19.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-7783-2035-7

A midlife marital crisis threatens the stability of a squeaky-clean navy family in Wiggs's latest, which overcomes a listless, saccharine start thanks to a rousing finale aboard an aircraft carrier. Steve and Grace Bennett look like the perfect military couple: Steve, a former pilot, has become an ambitious officer, and Grace successfully cares for their three bright, talented kids while he's deployed. But rips appear in the marriage fabric when Grace, seeking more in life, starts a relocation business, begins a fitness program and buys a small but lovely house near the Seattle base they temporarily call home. Wiggs's light, engaging style keeps the story moving in the first half, despite too many syrupy family scenes and a far-fetched subplot in which Josh, a fledgling pilot under Steve's command, is revealed to be his long-lost son from a brief, ill-advised teen marriage. This revelation widens the gap between Grace and Steve, who never told her about wife number one, and Wiggs balances their turmoil with a subplot involving their oldest daughter, Emma, and a hunky but predatory high school boy whose father is Steve's boss. But the tension isn't all emotional: Josh goes on a training exercise that nearly turns deadly, and Steve, trying to stop a deadly fire aboard his aircraft carrier, gets swept overboard into the icy Pacific. While Wiggs tends to nip suspense in the bud and linger on overripe romantic sentiments, her characters are sympathetic and her tale of frayed loves mended is sure to strike a responsive chord in a maturing audience. (Apr.)