Born in turn-of-the-century San Francisco to French parents, Florence moved to Paris, aged eleven. Believing that only money brought respectability and happiness, she became the third wife of Frank Jay Gould, son of the railway millionaire Jay Gould. She guided Frank’s millions into hotels and casinos, creating a luxury hotel and casino empire. She entertained Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Joseph Kennedy, and many Hollywood stars, like Charlie Chaplin, who became her lover. While the party ended for most Americans after the Crash of 1929, Frank and Florence refused to go home. During the Occupation, Florence took several German lovers and hosted a controversial salon. As the Allies closed in, the unscrupulous Florence became embroiled in a notorious money laundering operation for fleeing high-ranking Nazis.
Yet after the war, not only did she avoid prosecution, but her vast fortune bought her respectability as a significant contributor to the Metropolitan Museum and New York University, among many others. It also earned her friends like Estée Lauder who obligingly looked the other way. A seductive and utterly amoral woman who loved to say “money doesn’t care who owns it,” Florence’s life proved a strong argument that perhaps money can buy happiness after all.
NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
Energetic…Ronald’s group portrait is breath-taking and quite modern.
WALL STREET JOURNAL
A lively picture of the world in which Florence moved, with all its intricate financial shenanigans, rivalrous investors and glittering social occasions… Florence’s great talent—along with her business acumen, her single-mindedness and her refusal to be burdened by doubts or scruples—was to invent and reinvent herself to blend in with and exploit every place and every time.
Ronald provides an unvarnished account of the life of avant-garde socialite Florence Lacaze Gould, whose dazzling, gilded lifestyle belied her dark side as a libertine, Nazi collaborator, and war profiteer . . .History lovers will welcome this impressive book about a captivating, flawed woman.