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Triflers Need Not Apply by Camilla Bruce is historic fiction set in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth centuries and based on real life. It follows the life of Little Brynhild as she travels from her home in Norway to Indiana where she assumes the name Bella and embarks upon a killing spree that has ensured her lasting notoriety.

Triflers Need Not Apply by Camilla Bruce

Synopsis of Triflers Need Not Apply by Camilla Bruce

In Størsetgjerdet in Norway, seventeen-year-old Little Brynhild is pregnant by Anders, a handsome farmer’s son. Expecting that her suitor will do the right thing and marry her, giving her a future away from the toil and misery of abject poverty that otherwise awaits her, Little Bryhild tells her lover they must marry. But the answer she receives is not what she wanted to hear. Instead, her hopes are brought to a violent and humiliating end, leaving Brynhild with both physical and mental scars that will dictate the course of her life.

Exacting revenge on her lover, Brynhild then manipulates her older sister, Nellie, to pay for a ticket to America so Brynhild can join her in Chicago and begin a new, better life.

Adopting the name Bella, she quickly discovers that Nellie’s living conditions fall very short of what she imagined and hoped to enjoy herself. Nellie’s life consists of as much drudgery and misery as the poverty she left behind in Norway. Even worse is the realisation that the men in America are little different from the ones in Størsetgjerdet; they own everything and have very little care or respect for women.

Determined to do better for herself and knowing how to exploit men’s weakness for flattery, Bella sets out to marry a man of means. Along the way, she discourages an unwelcome suitor in a way that sets tongues wagging and sows the first seeds of doubt in her sister’s mind. Never having heard the full story of the circumstances that led her young sister to seek a new life away from Norway, Nellie determines to bury the thought that Bella may not be as innocent as she appears to be, and to help her in every way she can.

Managing to secure herself a good marriage to a kind man, Bella discovers she is now infertile, and her initial contentment for her new life gives way to renewed anger, not just for Anders, but for her new husband too and for men in general. An encounter with the handsome and unscrupulous James Lee, the first man she has ever had any respect for, seems to provide the perfect solution.

As their relationship – both business and personal – cements itself, Bella finds a new path in life, one that satisfies all her needs and that results in a trail of murder and destruction.

My review of Triflers Need Not Apply by Camilla Bruce

At first, my sympathies lay entirely with Little Brynhild for the way she was abused by her lover. I even forgave her revenge because, if ever a ‘baddie’ deserved to get his comeuppance, it was Anders. But as Bella’s thirst for revenge and betterment at any cost took ever darker turns, I had to remind myself that this tale is based on a true story and that many, possibly all, of these things actually happened.

It seems inconceivable that someone could get away with the things Bella did, with barely a sniff of suspicion from the authorities. If Triflers Need Not Apply was simply fiction, I would be lamenting the unrealistic storyline. But it wasn’t until 1911 that fingerprints were first accepted by US courts as a reliable means of identification, and it would be another 75 years before DNA played a pivotal role in investigations.

If you told enough lies and shed enough tears, it seems that 120 years ago a woman could (literally) get away with murder. It’s remarkable more didn’t do just that… or did they? I guess we can’t ever know for sure.

Camilla Bruce has clearly researched her subject matter well and manages to convey not simply the cold, revengeful Bella but also, when it comes to children, the caring, loving Bella… as long as they don’t threaten her ‘lifestyle’ choices.

Overall, the story moves along at a reasonable pace and the plot is compelling for the sheer audacity and gruesome detail of Bella’s actions. At every twist and turn, I expected her to be uncovered, arrested, and executed, but she manages to constantly evade the justice of the law, only to be undone by the justice of her own cruelty.


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