August Publications

A plucky New York gal pushing 30 negotiates romantic and career pitfalls in Leigh Riker's Strapless. Darcie Baxter has a devastatingly cute, Ivy League—educated investment banker boyfriend who will only schedule an "appointment" with her once a week at the Hyatt. Meanwhile, her co-worker at the lingerie company Wunderthings keeps stealing her development ideas. Complications multiply when Darcie is sent on business to Australia, where she meets a dreamy, barely tamed sheep rancher who wants her to be his little woman. The witticisms fall somewhat flat ("I stand five feet four in my panty hose, which are soaked at the moment—no, not with lust but... from this freaking rain"), but still this is a competent entry in the Bridget Jones look-alike contest, with a Down Under twist. (Red Dress Ink, $12.95 paper 320p ISBN 0-373-25018-5)

A fabled Spanish treasure trove buried off the coast of Key West anchors Doubloon, a salty thriller by Jay Amberg (Blackbird Singing). Pilot Jack Gallagher knows more about planes than boats, but when his father dies and leaves him stock in his salvage company, Jack feels duty bound to help his stepmother and stepbrother keep the company afloat. A beautiful, combative reporter, some crafty Cuban expats and a raft of weatherbeaten divers keep the plot moving at a steady clip. The final recovery scenes in the face of a raging hurricane deliver true high seas drama. (Forge, $24.95 320p ISBN 0-765-30100-8)

First in a projected trilogy, Phoebe MacPhee's sassy novel The Alphabetical Hookup List features three very different college freshmen sharing one small dorm room and one seemingly larger-than-life dilemma: no boyfriends. To jump-start date activity, brainy Celeste, popular girl Jodi and fad-conscious Ali dare themselves to kiss one boy whose name begins with each letter of the alphabet. Hijinks ensue, as do silly encounters and eye-roll-inducing dialogue, but college kids (or more likely, high schoolers) will enjoy the novel's cheeky premise. (Pocket/MTV, $9.95 paper 224p ISBN 0-7434-4842-1)

First published in 1905, Doctor Glas is considered to be Swedish novelist Hjalmar Söderberg's masterpiece. The beautiful young wife of the repellant Reverend Gregorius confides to Glas that her sex life is making her miserable and begs for his help. Smitten with her, he agrees, even though she already has another lover. He does intervene, but when it becomes clear that the Reverend will not give up his "rights," Glas begins planning his murder. Arranged in the form of a journal, this fascinating, deeply moral (yet never moralizing) novel, trans. by Paul Britten Austin, offers the voyeuristic thrill of reading over the doctor's shoulder as he wrestles with his conscience. (Anchor, $12 paper 192p ISBN 0-385-72267-2)

Set in the rough neighborhoods of South Boston, This Thing Called Courage is a collection of seven moving stories dealing with sexual desire among young, working-class Irish Catholic men. Author J.G. Hayes does an excellent job of capturing the conflicting emotions of his characters as they wrestle with "some bastard child of... shame and desire." In "Jimmy Callahan, Married, Three Kids," a firefighter is drawn to a widowed co-worker; the narrator of "The Rain" suffers a breakdown after a beloved friend plummets to his death; and in the title story, a repairman recalls an ill-fated affair with his high school gym teacher. These stories, often bleak but always deeply moving, are a welcome addition to the Boston Irish subgenre of hard-knocks fiction. (Haworth, $27.95 242p ISBN 1-56023-380-X; paper $17.95 -381-8)