Cristiane Serruya is a copyright infringer, a plagiarist, and an idiot.

If you know me, you know I do not make accusations lightly–especially accusations about plagiarism and copyright infringement. Earlier today, a fan sent me an email claiming that portions of my book that had been copied by another author. After investigation, I have concluded that Christiane Serruya has copied, word-for-word, multiple passages from my book The Duchess War.

There are more passages copied than what I list below, and history suggests that if you delve deeper into this book, and other books, there will be even more plagiarism. I have not listed all of the similarities because, quite frankly, it is stomach-churning to read what someone else has done to butcher a story that I wrote with my whole heart.

But the passages I will show you will be enough. They’re quite convincing.

The first five comparisons are lifted from the same 4 pages in my book, starting at Kindle Location 1885. They’re scattered throughout hers, but it’s all from the same scene in mine.

The Duchess War:

As always, she had not a single hair out of place. She dressed in what he supposed was the height of fashion, if he’d bothered to follow it. Her gown was a dark blue, the hems embroidered in a white-and-gold pattern two inches thick. Her waist was slim, but not too tightly laced; a shawl of black lace looped over her shoulders.

She had always seemed imposing, like some faraway castle tower looming on the horizon. Even when she’d visited him when he was a child, she had been distant.

Now, the two yards between them could have been a furlong. In the years since he’d gained his majority, they’d come to a comfortable accommodation. When they were both in town, they had dinner together—no more than once—and talked of nothing. Her charitable work, his work in Parliament. Everything they said at those meals, they might have found out about one another through the society pages. He had no expectations of her and she no longer disappointed him.

Royal Love, Kindle Location 3286:

As always, her hair was combed in a striking, fashionable stormy way around her face and she was dressed in what he supposed was the height of fashion—if he bothered to follow it. Her black leather suit emphasized her slim waist and fit body.

When he was a child, she had seemed imposing, like some faraway forbidden castle, looming over the horizon. When he came home for holidays, she had kept her distance and coldness. Every word they exchanged since Angus had been crowned king, had been polite, affable, and so unexceptionable. She might have read his school reports; he might have read about her in the tabloids. When he was a child, all he wanted was for her to notice him. Now, he had no more expectations of her. She could no longer disappoint him.

 

The Duchess War:

She had drawn herself up stiffly. Little blooms of pink touched her cheeks. No doubt she’d realized that once he married, she’d become the dowager Duchess of Clermont, and she was loath to give up her place in society to some chit who didn’t respect her as she wanted.

“No offense, Mama,” Robert drawled, “but I do not consider you an expert on marriage. Expertise, I think, would require you to actually stay in one.”

Her lips pinched together. “Insults.” She sniffed. “You become more like your father every day.

 

RL, Kindle Location 3315:

Little blooms of pink touched her cheeks and she drew herself up straighter.“It’ll be a disaster.”

A more honorable son would have taken mercy. But he’d long been without it where his mother was concerned. For all that the woman sitting before him was his mother, she was a stranger. “Well, it’s unfortunate for you then that she is already carrying.”

A shriek strangled itself in Catriona’s throat. “You become more like your father every day.

(Snarky aside: “A shriek strangled itself in Catriona’s throat”? No wonder you’re copying other authors, girl.)

The Duchess War:

Her nostrils flared; he almost thought she might stamp her foot and paw the ground, like an angry bull.

Royal Love, Kindle Location 5170:

Her nostrils flared; he almost thought she might stamp her foot and paw the ground, like the bull that had attacked Siobhan.

The Duchess War:

There was a reason they’d kept their conversations to inane niceties up until this point. There was no way to talk about anything else without bitterness. They had no common past to draw on, almost no shared acquaintances. His mother had spent more time visiting Sebastian’s mother—her husband’s sister—than she had lived in Robert’s household as a child.

And she’d chosen to do it. He might have forgiven her at one time. At one time, he would have forgiven her anything.

Royal Love, Kindle Location 5173:

There was a reason they’d kept their conversations to inane niceties up until this point. There was no way to talk about anything else without bitterness. They had no common past to draw on, almost no shared acquaintances. His mother had spent more time visiting her lovers and friends than she had stayed with him when, as a child, he came to spend the holidays in Lektenstaten. And she’d chosen to do it. He might have forgiven her at one time. At one time, he would have forgiven her anything.

The Duchess War:

Robert nearly sprang to his feet, his temper rising at that. But shouting had never got him anywhere. Slowly, he exhaled his anger, letting it flow from him until the serenity of ice returned.

“Ah,” he finally said. “Insults.”

Royal Love, Kindle Location 5185:

Angus nearly sprang to his feet, his temper rising at that. But shouting had never gotten him anywhere. Slowly, he exhaled his anger, letting it flow from him until the serenity of ice returned.

“Get out.”

Here are some things that are pretty blatantly outright copied:

The Duchess War, Kindle Location 3360

If you’re any good in bed, I might fall in love with you. If that is going to be anathema…”

“No,” he said swiftly. He looked away from her, and when he spoke again, there was a slight rasp to his words. “No. That would be perfectly…unobjectionable.”

From his words, she might have thought him uncaring. But that catch in his voice and the way he tilted his head toward her again, gave the lie to his indifference. He looked at her like a thirsty man gazing on an oasis, trying to decide if it were an illusion brought on by the heat.

It made a sudden, impossible sense of everything. He doesn’t want a loveless marriage. He’s just resigned himself to one.

Royal Love, Kindle Location 4062

She stared back, both fascinated and appalled. “And if I fall in love with you? Is it going to be anathema?”

“No,” he said swiftly, and looked away from her. There was a slight rasp to his words, when he faced her again. “No. That would be perfectly…unobjectionable.”

From his words, she might have thought him uncaring. But that catch in his voice and the way he tilted his head toward her again, gave the lie to his indifference. He looked at her like a thirsty man gazing on an oasis, trying to decide if it were an illusion brought on by the heat. It made a sudden, impossible sense of everything.

He doesn’t want a loveless marriage. He’s just resigned himself to one.

The Duchess War, Kindle Location p. 2321

Robert had always hoped for a family of his own—first imagining his father more caring than he was, then hoping that his mother would love him. When he’d realized how futile his daydreams were, his wants had shifted outward. It had started so subtly that he couldn’t pinpoint the moment.

He’d had daydreams in which he accompanied Oliver home during the summer holidays. He’d imagined spending entire days together, talking and playing and boxing and fishing and doing whatever it was that brothers did.

Mr. and Mrs. Marshall had to have been the most beautiful sight that he had seen. So utterly normal. They’d rushed forward, arms outstretched, and grabbed up Oliver. Who had scowled and made noises of complaint, the ungrateful wretch—noises like “Stop, Ma, not my hair,” and, “Don’t kiss me in front of the fellows!” All that fuss, just because they hadn’t seen him in a handful of months. Robert had watched from the other side of the room, a lump in his throat.

And then the moment had come. After the affectionate greetings had been given, Oliver had turned. “Mother,” he’d said, “Father, this is—”

Mr. Marshall’s voice was quiet, but it couldn’t soften the harshness of the blow. “You look like your father. Very like.” He paused. “So much like, I think, that when my wife saw you just now, she saw him.”

He had nodded in a haze of pain.

“Perhaps,” Mr. Marshall said gently, “this is not the best moment to perform introductions.”

“Yes,” he’d said. “Sir.”

And he’d understood that there would never be a moment for introductions. There would be no lazy family summers, no man-to-man talks, no gingerbread on plates for him.

Royal Love, Kindle Location 5206

Angus had always hoped for a family of his own—first imagining his father more caring than he was, then hoping his mother would love him.

When he’d realized how futile his daydreams were, his wants had shifted outward. It had started so subtly he couldn’t pinpoint the moment.

He’d had daydreams in whichLudwig was his brother, and he would accompany Ludwig home during the summer holidays. He’d imagined spending entire days together, talking and playing and boxing and fishing and doing whatever it was brothers did.

When Ludwig’s parents visited the school, and they did a lot, they’d rush forward, arms outstretched, and grab up Ludwig. And Angus would watch the ungrateful wretch scowl and complain, “Stop, Mama,” and, “Don’t kiss me in front of the fellows!”

All that fuss, just because they hadn’t seen him in a handful of weeks.

Angus could only stare dumbfounded from the other side of the room, a lump of sadness and jealousy in his throat, blocking him from asking to be taken with them for whatever they planned to do.

He understood there’d be no lazy family summers, no man-to-man talks, no special sweets for him.

Can I just talk about this for a second? Robert’s yearning for family–and specifically, to be a part of Oliver, his half brother’s, family–is a theme in The Duchess War that stretches across the entire series, up through the point in The Suffragette Scandal when Free ends up on his doorstep thinking that she’s imposing. It is something that meant a lot to me when writing it, and to have someone take this scene–the one where Robert feels he simply just doesn’t get to have anyone love him because of who his father was–and to have them rewrite it, while taking out the bones of what made the scene tick–it just makes me feel awful.

From The Duchess War, Kindle Location 3853

For one second, there wasn’t the slightest hint of amusement in his eyes. He looked so old, the tiny lines at the corner of his mouth gathering as his lips pinched together. And yet he also looked young—impossibly young, as if hissix-year-old self were still looking out from behind his eyes, watching his mother walk away.

“Maybe.” He looked away from her, and then looked back. That urbane amusement was back on his face now, but it looked lopsided on him—as if he were trying to wear a hat that didn’t quite fit.

He had to laugh at what had happened. If he didn’t laugh, he would cry. She couldn’t have understood it until just that moment—because at that moment, she knew that she had to laugh, too, or burst into tears on his behalf. He looked at her with such urgency that she could not bear to force the issue.

“Yes,” she said quietly, entwining her fingers with his. “I do see that, now. It is funny.”

Royal Love, Kindle Location 3239

“No?” For one second, there wasn’t the slightest hint of amusement in his eyes. He looked so old, the tiny lines at the corner of his mouth gathering as his lips pinched together. And yet he also looked young—impossibly young, as if his five-year-old self were still looking out from behind his eyes, watching his mother send him away.

He looked away from her, and then back. That urbane amusement was back on his face now, but it looked lopsided on him—as if he were trying to wear a hat that didn’t quite fit. “Maybe because you don’t know what freedom I had in the boarding school. The pranks I played.”

“Yes, sure. That might be it,” she agreed because she didn’t have the heart to say otherwise. It has to be a funny story to him.

A note on the set-up to this one: Royal Love mirrors The Duchess War in that, in both, hero is telling the heroine a story that he claims is funny but which is actually heartbreaking. A major difference is that the story in The Duchess War is actually a little funny, and a lot heartbreaking.

Okay, that’s all the comparison I can handle doing at this point.

Let me be frank: This sucks. It sucks that someone took my heart work for their own. I wrote the Duchess War in the midst of a massive depressive spell and I bled for every word that I put on the page. It was a hard book to write and it’s not yours to take. For someone to take that emotion and just…shove it into this nonsensical bullshit…it hurts.

It also sucks that this is going to take time I didn’t have away from everything that I’m doing.

But you know what? Cristiane Serruya has to be the biggest idiot out there. I’ve sold several hundred thousand copies of this book. I’ve given away several hundred thousand copies on top of that. Does she think that readers are never going to notice her blatant plagiarism?

And then there’s the fact that it’s me. Look, I’m not special in any other way and I don’t want to toot my own horn to much, but if I were an unethical plagiarist and I was looking to plagiarize a romance author, I would pick literally anyone except the one who clerked for the Supreme Court, taught intellectual property as a law professor, and doesn’t back down from a fight.

You follow me on Twitter, Cristiane. How stupid can you get?

 

So here’s the deal, Cristiane. This is what I expect:

  1. You will take down Royal Love immediately. Everywhere. I’ve looked through the book enough to know that you didn’t just copy my words, you copied scene structures and familial arrangements. I don’t think this book is salvageable. It contains too much of my own work for you to be able to claim it as your own. Take it down.
  2. You should make an accounting of exactly how much money you made on this book. It’s not yours, and you shouldn’t spend it.
  3. You’re going to write an apology. A real one. And you’re going to fess up to all your plagiarism–not just this. If you skip something, I guarantee people are going to find it. You post it to every social media that you have. You send it out in your newsletter. You put it on your Amazon page.
  4. In exchange for doing all of this, you get the satisfaction that you’re starting to do the right thing after a time period of great idiocy. Clear?

Here’s the deal, other authors:

We’re almost certainly going to find out that I’m not the only one she’s plagiarized. I’m not 100% certain exactly how to proceed, but I have this here copyright registration certificate in my hands, and it’s dated before her infringement.

If it turns out that you’re similarly situated, please let me know.

 

120 thoughts on “Cristiane Serruya is a copyright infringer, a plagiarist, and an idiot.

  1. @Bee:

    Hi Bee, I’m writing an article about this in portuguese. Since Cristina is brazilian, I think the brazilian readers would be very interested in this. Can we talk? Please contact me: mrlucasmota @ gmail.com (remove the spaces)

  2. Sickening. I think you handled it better than I would have! My creative writing was plagiarized in college by another student and that was maddening enough; I couldn’t deal with someone ripping off my books now. I’m sorry this happened to you, and I genuinely hope that you see some justice from this situation.

  3. @Iris: Rules. What do your mother’s rules say. I was missing a letter. You appear to be missing any sense of human compassion. A lot of authors have had their work stolen, and your response is to go to one of those author’s blogs and chide her for a bit of (extremely mild) name calling. It seems to me that all those rules our mothers taught us were about kindness. Tone policing someone who has been harmed, in her own space no less, is not kind.

  4. Wow, just looked at this author’s profile on Amazon. She retired from her 22-yr career as a lawyer in 2012 to “try her hand at writing”. It also says she has a Masters in Business Law. How does she not understand the definition of plagiarism??? Sorry for what’s happened to you, Courtney. I hope this gets resolved soon & you get the apology you richly deserve.

  5. @Pamela Clare:

    I thought J.K. Rowling used a Ghost Writer. I personally don’t have a problem with it. Some people have a great story but suck at writing. Some have a great story but work two jobs, have kids, and a family and simply do not have the time to actually write anything. So what do you do? Send an outline to a Ghostwriter and let them do their magic.

    Unfortunately, they are also pricey and need the money up front. I ended up writing my own book and it took way too long to do it.

  6. Holy cow! I mean, you could reuse a common phrase here or there or a cliche, but my God, this is the worst plagiarism I’ve ever seen. Good on you for making sure they don’t get away with it!

  7. I’m so sorry this happened to you Courtney, I hope this plagiariser is brought to justice, and I hope that it reaches other authors that may have been affected.

  8. Ugh, Courtney, this SUCKS!!! So glad you caught it and brought this “writer” into the limelight. So sorry this happened to you.

  9. As another former lawyer turned indie author, I’m fascinated to see how this will play out. I cannot believe Serruya would do this if she didn’t strongly believe her (alleged) plagiarism was protected by fair use and insulated from an infringement suit. I do hope you’ll pursue this fully, Courtney, so justice will be served for you. But, if no other reason, to give the rest of us authors some clarity in this still-developing realm of law.

  10. Well, after reading all of this, all I can say is that I really want to read “The Duchess War” because it sounds terrific. (“Royal Love,” not so much.)

  11. Sometimes when you’re writing, you think, “hmm, is this **my**idea or did I subconsciously pick it up reading another writer’s work?” but holy heck these are word for word passages! Nothing subconscious about that.

  12. WOW Becky how very rude of you to say this author is unkind and lacking compassion for calling out another so called author for plagiarizing her work! I think you are unkind and rude for even crossing that line! I would think you would be upset if someone stole your life’s work too. So obviously the rules you were taught by your mother is that it’s ok to steel what doesn’t belong to you and just to be mean!

  13. Courtney,
    I haven’t read any romance in years (went through a LOT of it in my 20s-30s), but a friend put several of us who are readers on to this. And I’m sure you’re right; if she’s done it to you, she’s done it to others. This kind of crap is just too evil for words. I am so sorry this happened to you; writing can be sort of like giving birth, for gods sake. This is out and out larceny and she doesn’t need to get away with it. I hope you sue the pants off this heffa (not that we need to see pictures of her ugly ass!). Best to you, Courtney ((((((())))))

  14. In my mind, Duchess Wars is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read! My heart goes out to you and the others affected-Nora, Christi, and more I’m sure. This makes me even more aware of my responsibility as a reader to report anytime I’m suspicious. Good luck Courtney!

  15. @Bo Loftis In order to claim fair use they would have to change it enough to make it their own. This is almost word for word pure theft. If they think this is fair use they aren’t thinking very hard. This so called Author that stole from Courtney Milan also stole from Nora Robert’s and I am sure many others.

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