Jacquelyn Mitchard, . . HarperCollins, $25.95 (912pp) ISBN 978-0-06-053419-6

The author of The Deep End of the Ocean delivers once again in this overstuffed story about a middle-aged woman's complicated second marriage. She chronicles one year in the life of True Dickinson, the owner of a thriving mail-order business on Cape Cod. Widowed for eight years, she is raising her 10-year-old son, Guy, with the help of her office assistant, Isabelle, and her controlling mother, Kathleen. On her 43rd birthday, she is lamenting her lack of love life when fate, in the form of a road accident, brings her together with Hank Bannister, a man 10 years younger than she. They court and marry quickly—then life gets tricky. Having been freewheeling most of his life, Hank is loath to accept his new responsibilities. True, for her part, must do more than just pencil him into her structured life; he wants to feel needed and integral. Hank, a sexy chef of Creole background, is as much a laid-back Southerner as True is a mistrustful New Englander. "He may be one in a million. Or this may be the biggest ratio of bullshit since time began," True thinks. Mitchard infuses the courtship and domestic life with gentle humor. Kathleen is a caricature of the withholding mother, but such characters as True's brother, Dog; her new mother-in-law, Clothilde; and True herself resonate with distinctive voices as Mitchard explores the intimate details involved in making a family work. 14-city author tour; rights sold in Holland, Italy, the U.K. and Poland. (Apr.)

Forecast:Mitchard's fans will flock to buy this book, since most of them are aware of her well-publicized marriage to a man a decade her junior.