Romance Novelist Revealed As Plagiarist After Writing 75 Books In 5 Years

Does it seem to anyone else like the romance genre has been in the news a lot this year? First, it was that very strange Holocaust-themed novel being nominated for two RITAs (the genre’s annual awards), now it’s that a prolific romance novelist has been outed as a plagiarist.

Laura Harner’s bibliography reads like a porn filmography, not only because there are softcore gay sex scenes involved, but also because she’s just published so much in such a short period of time – 75 books over seven or eight genres in only five years. Looking at those numbers, it’s hardly surprising that at least two of her books have been revealed as almost word-for-word copies of other authors’ work.

Author Becky McGraw was the first to have it brought to her attention by a reader that Harner’s Coming Home Texas was basically the same exact novel as McGraw’s My Kind of Trouble, just with the female lead transformed into a gay man. McGraw posted about it on Facebook, and novelist Jenny Trout cross-referenced the books to search for similarities. Here’s one scene she found in Harner’s Coming Home Texas:

“Since he’d gotten the call from Isabella–the closest thing to a mother that he’d known since his own mom died when he was nine–Brandon seemed to be stuck on a never ending sentimental highway. Once he decided he needed to come back, the memories he thought he buried long ago wouldn’t leave him alone.

Thoughts of Joe Martinez won’t leave me alone.

And here’s the same scene in McGraw’s original text:

“Since she’d gotten the call from Imelda, the closest thing to a mother that Cassie had known since her own mother died when she was ten, Cassie had been in that mode. Once she decided she needed to come back, the memories she thought she buried ten years ago would not leave her alone. Thoughts of Luke Matthews would not leave her alone.”

Then Trout was alerted that Harner’s Deuce Coop series was plagiarized from Opal Carew’s Riding Steele, so she cross-referenced that, too. Here’s a scene from Harner’s Deuce Coop Episode 1: Taken:

“‘Is that the dude Butcher’s friend wants us to snatch?’

Deuce glanced in the direction Gunny was staring. Deuce and his men sat in an old Route 66 bar, called Big Red’s, decorated in a rustic old west theme complete with heavy wooden tables and a copper bar. A slender young man walked toward the high bar where a suited man sat with a couple–all of their gazes fixed on the young man’s approach. Deuce recognized the newcomer from the pictures of Marcy’s brother that Butcher had shown him.

They didn’t do him justice.”

And here’s Carew’s Riding Steele:

‘Is that the woman Killer’s friend wants us to kidnap?’

Steele glanced in the direction Shock was looking. Steele and his men were sitting in a pub called Big Rigg that had heavy wooden tables and a rustic atmosphere. A woman walked toward one of the high tables at the bar where a suited man and a couple were sitting. He recognized the newcomer from the pictures of Craig’s sister that Killer had shown him.

They didn’t do her justice.”

Apparently this all went on as long as it did partially because there isn’t a lot of readership overlap between gay romance novels (Harner’s audience) and hetero romance novels, and partially because the romance community is so dedicated to being supportive and nice to each other that no one wants to call someone out when they do something unethical.

This is so egregious, though, that McGraw is taking legal action and urging authors in all genres to check Harner’s bibliography to see if there are any other books she’s plagiarized. She told The Guardian that since Harner has published so much in the last few years, “I’d say everyone in every genre needs to be concerned, both indie and traditionally published authors.”

Harner, meanwhile, has pulled her books from retailers and apologized, explaining in a statement that she’s been under personal and professional duress, that she “made mistakes,” and that she’s going to own up to them. And that might wind up being extraordinarily difficult – while McGraw’s books are published by indie houses, Carew’s Riding Steele was published by St. Martin’s Press, which is owned by Macmillan, and which has considerable resources to pursue legal recourse.

It is all very juicy and scandalous – maybe someone should turn this story into a lesbian meta-romance novel. Too soon?

[The Guardian]
[Jenny Trout]

Image via Enticing Journey/Shutterstock

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