The story opens with Lady Susie preparing for an evening party held in celebration of the start of the school term, a Paradisian tradition amongst teens of the territory. It is revealed that Susie, somewhat against her inclinations, insisted on hosting the major party for the close of the previous term on her family's estate, primarily because the party planners seemed, to her, to be too immature to organise such an important event (the episode is detailed in 'Neat Knickers', the introductory instalment of Paradise One). In a chauffeur-driven car of the estate she embarks for the party dressed in only high-heeled shoes, a black satin waist-jacket and fancy satin knickers, an example of private attire. Upon arrival she is greeted by two boys who ogle and mock her, demonstrating that the same crowd who could not put together a respectable party three months ago are still too puerile to respect someone at this one.
After stunning nearly everyone at the party with her state of attire, Susie circulates amongst some less-popular people whom she knows from school, finding them more receptive, more respectful, and more genuine than the more popular people who fancy themselves the upper strata of North Eden High School society. She meets up with Dawn, a friend of her sister, and introduces her to two of their classmates, one of whom as Susie had expected, is interested in asking Dawn for a date. After meeting up with her sister Caroline, the two hold court at a table on the terrace, entertaining others with their jokes and with stories of living the life of true socialites and daughters of the earl. Most girls at the party admit admiration for Susie, who shows herself to be much more approachable, friendly and genteel than they had previously believed or feared.
Susie finishes up talking with some older boys whom she does not know, one of whom attempts to fondle her even in front of other people. Susie is so incensed by his audacity that she gashes him with her long, strong fingernails and uses her beeper to summon the chauffeur immediately. Once home, she pours herself a strong (alcoholic) drink, and after Caroline comes home they are joined by their father on the terrace to discuss the events of the party. Lord Paradise listens carefully to each of their concerns, proposes some solutions and commends them both on their sound judgement as regards functions and friends they should or should not keep.
After Lord Paradise bids them good night, Susie shocks Caroline by saying she did not mind what the boy did to her as much as his reasons for wanting to do it, and asserts, with typical self-confidence, that 'maybe I'm just too much for some people'. Caroline promises to have her friends apologise to Susie; Susie states that any apology would mean nothing to her; and Caroline predicts that Susie will forgive them completely anyway, for such is her big heart.
The episode began in the early 1990s as a much shorter work and was expanded to nearly novella length in 2016, developed as a kind of introduction to the central characters of the saga. It provides detail about the three elder siblings' close relationship and on those each of the girls have with their father.
Lady Susie Edit
Blonde, buxom and beautiful, Susie Cavaliere is represented as a not-yet-15-year-old fifth former only just beginning to sample the responsibilities and freedoms of being a grown person of influence in her home territory. In the course of one evening, she is seen as virtuous, innocent and somewhat prudish as well as willing to cut a provocative appearance and to enjoy toying with others' reactions to her attire, manners and unassailable morality. She reels from an intimidating confidence upon her entrance to the party to a profound sense of inadequacy and embarrassment. As she despises every sort of vulnerability in herself, the episode represents a major growing experience for her and a turning point in how she chooses to present and to handle herself when out amongst her peers.
Lady Caroline Edit
As eldest sibling in her family, Caroline (aka 'Sissy', her nickname, from her initials) Cavaliere owns a keen awareness of her obligation to uphold the family honour as well as her own dignity, a responsibility that often weights heavily on her and inhibits her from more diverting pursuits such as her adopted sister Susie enjoys. Whilst beautiful and elegant, she is contrasted with Susie as a kind of ice princess, lovely to see but essentially untouchable, which unfortunately leaves her feeling often self-conscious. Within the episode she is often self-deprecating, typically masking her insecurity with attempts at wry, witty humour at her own expense. However she is honest and forthright about her respect and affection for Susie, whom she praises to her friends and is happy to cling to, cuddle and kiss before company.
Lord Jonathan Edit
Though he does regard his sisters with some concern and even protectiveness, Jonathan is depicted mostly as a typical 14-year-old boy of the territorial upper class, too attentive to his girlfriend than to interact substantively with many others at the party. It is his snogging with Corinne on the rear terrace that sets an example for others to indulge in the same sort of behaviour, leading to the events that offend both Susie and Caroline. The girls are very careful to not implicate him in the discussion with their father later, an example of the bond the three elder siblings have about maintaining each other's secrets.
Lord Paradise Edit
Jonathan Cavaliere, Jr., in this episode the siblings' father, is the male protagonist of Love Me Do, the author's first completed novel and the initial instalment in what has become a multigenerational saga. Now a landed earl, rock-and-roll icon and 'sex symbol for twenty years', he appears in 'Hands Off' as a casual, almost laissez-faire parent almost too indulgent with his teenaged daughters, not chastising them about their abbreviated evening attire or their late hours but rather discussing with them, almost as a teacher or counsellor, their perceptions, feelings and reactions about what they have experienced. In leaving the girls to their own decisions and devices, he encourages them in their own self-confidence and prepares them for the inevitability of a future in which they must become adults and accept the responsibilities of being full-fledged titled ladies in the territory.
As it takes place very early in the Cavaliere children's saga, the episode introduces somewhat the characters of Caroline, Susie, their brother Jonathan and their father, as well as some others, providing initial descriptions of their appearances, attitudes, and responsibilities as protagonists in the P1/P2 series.
One device not present in most of the Comet-penned Cavaliere-family episodes is the use of small knots, usually pairs, of party guests, uninvolved in the action, who share comments about their impressions of Susie and Caroline. Some of these conversations are flattering and some are not; but they serve as representations of common Paradisian opinions about the the girls, their family and their status as titled teenagers. The observers tend to rely strictly on rumour and empirical perception, none being close enough to the Cavaliere girls to know them any more substantively.
The work is notable for its focus on the Paradisian concept of private attire and of the various kinds of reactions that may be regarded as prevalent amongst residents of the territory.
Begun in 1994, the text of 'Hands Off' is to be published in e-text form during late 2016.