Chronicling the adventures of a young girl, Nancy King, as she explores life and her own sexuality, Sarah Waters offering a moving coming-of-age portrait in Tipping the Velvet. Born in the provincial seaside town of Whistable, Nancy’s life is forever changed when she meets a cross-dressing stage performer named Kitty Butler and travels with her to London as her stagehand and lover. Eventually joining Kitty’s act as a second male impersonator, Nancy’s sexual life and experiences begin to soar, until Kitty dumps her to marry a man, leaving Nancy on the streets, performing sexual acts in exchange for money, to men who mistake her for a male prostitute. Taken in by a rich socialite, Nancy’s new role as girl-toy in a life of opulent luxury furthers her own self-exploration. Filled with a vivid cast of characters and an array of colourful experiences, it is only when Nancy meets a plain, hard-working woman social worker that she begins to establish a true sense of love and a normal life.