The richness of this story gives us a window into the fascinating world of privileged English toffs during the 1920s and 1930s. We journey with Captain Ronald Fry, the merry millionaire, and his mentoree, Mervyn Watson, shrewd beyond his years, as they travel surrounded by the sumptuous luxury of their world, edged with the secrecy and danger which accompanied their similar "inclinations".
The book follows an unpublished fictional-memoir, discovered after the death of the main character, Captain Ronald Fry. The Captain lived a double life, being a gay man living in a world where to be gay was illegal and unacceptable in the light of day, but with discretion, deceit, and a lot of money, it was possible to be "merry".
J.A.Wells has written a jaunty tale of a the Captain's life, his travels and adventure, set squarely in historical events of the time. J.A.Wells' descriptions of magnificent cruise liners share with the reader his love of gorgeous interiors, clothes and theatre. His detailed depictions of luxurious ships, gentlemen's clubs, seedy bars, sleazy nightclubs, and magnificent mansions, give a texture to the story, encouraging you to stop and absorb a sense of place and time. He can put you right there, just as though you are in a room and relishing its opulence, its colour and light, its sounds and smells.
The story covers Ron's experiences during the First World War, how he accepts his gayness and adapts to its demands. Then later, he and Mervyn become mentor and mentoree in the Greek sense. Ron showers Mervyn with generosity; generosity that includes Mervyn's sisters, brothers, mother, father and his group of friends. They swan around England's West Country, cruise Norwegian fjords, and later, go on a rescue mission to Egypt. It's the glamorous 1930's. The unlimited supply of Ron's wealth, gives his family and friends access to many wonderful experiences.
This story is a tapestry filled with colour and texture bordered by dark edges. It is driven along by Ron's story, and how he side steps society's rules of behaviour and at the same time is a likeable character, with all the traits of a benefactor. He does much good for others, but at the same time uses his position of power to place himself perfectly for questionable opportunities.
Reading this story with the sensibility of the political correctness of today, and the knowledge that all is not "good" or "right" within the life of the main character, adds a thought provoking edge to what is otherwise a rollicking tale of a very MERRY millionaire.