It's only August, but the end of late summer's lovely languor is looming and soon the back-to-reality, back-to-school, back-to-work hustle will be the order of the day. Hectic times or lazy days, entertaining is inevitable for most of us and, though it should be fun, it all too often makes us desperate. Five years ago, Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross, working mothers who faced daily dining desperation, put together Desperation Dinners!, a survival guide that became the answer to every time-starved cook's prayers. Now, the divine dames are back with Desperation Entertaining! (Workman, $14.95, 400 pages, ISBN 0761118152), worth its weight in the fanciest foie gras for hassled hosts. The authors' desperation dinner party doctrine evolved from their own real life encounters with panic, pressure and paltry pantries. Their game plan, which can easily be yours, works. First, you figure who, what and where. It's the "what" that calls for dinner design, and that's where Beverly and Alicia really help. Every recipe is timed; some are Fast and Fabulous, others are "phased and flexible" and broken down into timed, do-ahead and do-now prep steps. Sample menus with worked out game plans show you how to put it all together. Then 200 delicious, downright doable recipes let you select your own winning combos. Beginning with Beguiling Beverages and ending with Decadent Desserts, you'll find nibbles and noshes to go with the drinks, festive entrees including enticing ideas for the good ol' Crockpot and non-grueling grilling salads, sides and brilliant brunches in between. With the sanity savers and do-ahead tips that season almost every page and the detailed info on what to keep on hand, you can soft-pedal the panic and be happy and humming when company's coming.

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