Tommy is a shy young cowboy, helplessly infatuated with his boss, and hopelessly inexperienced when it comes to love. As much as he craves Hal's attention, and fantasizes about his touch at the most inopportune times, he's also very much aware that he must preserve the secret of his sexuality from the other men. When they pressure him to hit the saloon and hook up with one of the working women, he reluctantly agrees to go, if only to have a few drinks and keep up the charade.
Lila is one of the working girls, but one with a dangerous secret. She's really a young man named Stephen, born and raised in a brothel, and addicted to his femininity - both as an expression of his true self, and as a means of getting close to men without risking rejection. He spies something in young Tommy, convinces him to provide an escort upstairs, and then shocks himself by revealing his secret.
What follows is an honest, touching, and (at times) troubled tale of separating lust from love, infatuation from intimacy. Tommy comes across as a really sweet young man, a virgin who is as eager to please as he is to learn. He has a hard time dealing with Lila's gender, and nearly exposes her on more than once occasion, but he respects her choices and ultimately comes to love her for who she is. Lila is definitely more street-smart, and has long since lost the innocence that makes Tommy so endearing, but she's also genuine about her feelings. You can't help but want the two of them to end up together, and to cheer every development that brings them closer.
I've already said this is a happily-ever-after tale, but it's truly the story behind the ending that's so delicious. To say more would be to spoil the magic, so I'll just leave you with this, my favourite line from the story:
I love you . . . Male, female, whichever you want to be is fine with me. It isn't the way you dress or the body you were born with. It's you. It will always be you.