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. @Claire my mother taught me to be the better person in a fight. Why lose points stooping to name calling? If plagiarism is stupid, name calling is not clever.

  2. I honestly can’t believe the gall, let alone the stupidity, of someone plagiarizing your work. I’m so very sorry this happened to you, and to all other authors involved. It’s really every author’s worst nightmare, but she sure as hell picked the wrong woman to mess with in this case. Keep fighting the good fight; we’re all behind you!

  3. Is this a real person, or a cover for someone else?
    There are a number of fake authors on Amazon, who put books through a synonimizer, or send them to a ghost writer, get a generic cover and publish. They pass the checks for straight word-for-word plagiarism because of the rephrasing, but it is somebody else’s books.
    It’s happened to me, once, but when I let them know that I knew, that particular set-up didn’t do it again. They will often use stock photos for author pics, and they may not exist outside Amazon, or they have a simple website.
    If it’s a real person, you’re lucky because you have somebody to go after.
    Go get her, Courtney!

  4. @Iris: What do your mother’s rule say about kicking someone when they’re down? Wagging your finger at someone who has been robbed, because you don’t like the way they talked about the robber, is not what I’d call being a better person.

  5. Outrageous & awful. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I loved The Duchess War and could tell the heart and creativity YOU put into it.

  6. I’m so sorry this has happened to you and so many other authors, as it seems she’s made one book out of 12 books. smh. I’m getting a copy of The Duchess war right now. Hope you can claim whatever royalties she was paid for this book.

  7. I don’t read romance novels, Courtney, but your take down is so brilliant while being very fair and human that I am going to go and buy your book. You are awesome.

  8. I’ve worked as a ghostwriter, too, sometimes writing original work for the Kindle market and sometimes helping other writers finish their work when they get part way through a novel and then have no idea what to do. NaNoWriMo actually brings me a lot of work.

    I have had nothing whatsoever to do with this author or this case, and of course anything I ghostwrite is 100% original outside of what a client may give me to work with.

    I’m just responding to those asking here whether working with ghostwriters and then publishing something under your own name is a thing. Yes, it is. For romance fiction, it’s like having a silent collaborator who will finish, fix, and polish your novel for you, and then you publish it under your name and tell everyone you wrote it.

    I don’t feel bad about being the ghostwriter – I try to teach the client as much as I can about how novels are actually written while I work on their book – but I could never let somebody else finish my book and then publish it solely under my name.

    But yes, plenty of people do this. Think about the folks you know who would do just about anything to get published. Some of them actually do.

  9. Wow, so I would take her house, her children’s house(s), and their children’s houses. She has stolen from you and yours. If you run out of names to call this piece of excretement just let me know( I can even make up names). I am so very sorry this has been done to you and please don’t let anyone take you to task for expressing your anger. And, by the way, I love your books.

  10. As per Lynne Connolly’s shared FB profile above, seems the author’s webpage is no longer being paid for. Brutal and while it sucks, I am so glad the the web allows us to catch these things faster and collaborate quickly to hopefully shut people like this down. I hope you are able to get some renumeration.

  11. This is wretched and gut-wrenching and I’m sorry for the frustration and pain you’re dealing with now and probably will continue to deal with for quite a while. A few years back, the romance author Rachel Ann Nunes also dealt with a plagiarizing situation like this. I can’t speak for her, obviously, but if you need commiseration from someone who already went through this and dealt with it, you might reach out to her.
    Good luck with things.

  12. This is disgusting to see. As an inspiring author myself, I would NEVER even think about using someone else’s work. I put my whole heart into every story I create and I can guess that I am not alone in feeling that. That someone could do this and think they would never be discovered shows me not only a complete lack of respect but simple stupidity.

  13. @Lynne Connolly:
    Lynne, that is truly frightening.

    Courtney, I agree — stupid to steal from someone who’s a true fighter, such as yourself. Maybe she wanted to get caught. Who knows. It’s like politicians with zipper problems. Why do they do it? I guess they just can’t help themselves.

  14. Hi Courtney,
    I’m very sorry to hear that you and your work were abused like this.

    If you’re not already aware of it, Amazon may confiscate any payments due to the infringer and reassign them to you if you file a complaint through the proper channels.

    I’m not 100% sure whether they’ll do this in a case of partial plagiarism (as opposed to wholesale piracy), but it’s certainly worth looking into.

    Links to the forms and procedures can be found here:
    https://johndopp.com/writers/amazon-will-compensate-victims-of-piracy/

    Best of luck to you!

  15. @Iris:

    She’s angry, and she has every right to be angry at this woman for STEALING her hard work and passing it off as her own, Cris has MADE MONEY off other people’s words, that’s not fair, nice or okay in any way.

  16. “She has a Master’s in Business Law and a BA in Fine Arts. In 2012, after twenty-two years of practicing law, Cris decided to give writing a go. And—amazingly—it was just the piece that was missing in the puzzle of her life.”

  17. @Becky “what do your mother’s rule say” – well, the rule would require a “does” not a “do” in this sentence, to begin with. There are 8 more authors who were plagiarised by Cristiane Serruya in this book, including Tessa Dare. NONE of them has resorted to name calling. They are definitely better persons.

  18. Go for everything you can. It’s your hard work. She deserves that and more. Theft is theft. A coffee pot or book. It’s a hers. If she had any talent or even scruples, she wouldn’t have done this. I believe in you. Go get her.

  19. Courtney, I’m so sorry you’re experiencing this travesty! What came to me was her stupidity (besides choosing one of your books) in copying your unique descriptions and use of language verbatim. But when I read the copywriter’s comment, that stupidity made sense.

    I’m hoping everything works out in the best possible way.

    Hugs!

  20. @Iris this situation is highly distressing and emotional for all the authors involved. It does NOT make Courtney less of a person for expressing her feelings the way she wants to. I would call this thief all the disgusting names in the world if she stole my work. She *is* the biggest idiot if she thought she could get away with this, or blame it on ghost writers.

  21. “her hair was combed in a striking, fashionable STORMY (?) way around her face” is almost as bad as “A shriek strangled itself in Catriona’s throat”

  22. That is a different kind of ghost writer from the kind she is alleged to have taken it from. She said it was the kind of ghost writer who doesn’t work with the author and gets paid one cent a word to make something up fast fast fast to get as many crummy books up there as possible to try and make a quick buck.

  23. She hasn’t taken it down and she claims to be a NYT best seller and a USA Today Best Seller and she even has Royal Love (what a annoyingly dumb name for a book) in AUDIO on Amazon.

  24. Disappointed in the “you’re not being the better person” responses. This person has had something important stolen from her. Her outrage is not only warranted and she has a right to express herself about it. The theft was in broad daylight and the thief made no attempt to conceal her identity. Why are you judging the victim’s tone instead of focusing on the crime and the criminal?

  25. @Iris – the count is now up to 29 books, 2 recipes and 2 articles, I believe. If you get a chance, check out Twitter and the hashtag #CopyPasteCris to see exactly what decent, talented people exactly like Courtney are dealing with before you dispense your mom’s advice.

  26. Ms Milan did not name call. She made two statements of fact and one of opinion. If I had been the person stolen from in such an egregious manner, you can be assured that my response would not have been so polite and even tempered. You have to stand up for yourself in this world or you will be walked upon. Ms Milan has done so in a really classy manner.

  27. Apparently, at least two of my books were plagiarized by this person. Having dealt with this before, I won’t play nice. First, I’ll speak to my agent this morning and engage a lawyer. I strongly recommend you, Courtney, and anyone else she stole from do the same. It won’t be easy, it won’t be pretty, but we have to stand up for our work. In this case, you aren’t alone. Feel free to email me if you want to discuss, or just need some emotional support.

  28. It is good that you registered your book with the copyright agency. You have a good case here. Contact a lawyer who specializes in copyrights, trademarks and service marks.

    I always suggest that authors register their work with the Copyright Government Agency.

    Good luck.

  29. Add me to the people disappointed in how Courtney’s being tone-policed on her understandable and justified reaction to someone plagiarizing her. Some folks would rather focus on the wrong thing!

  30. @Nora Roberts:

    Ms. Roberts, what a wonderful show of support for a fellow author. It seems that many authors are coming forward to claim plagiarism against Cristiane Serruya. I hope all of those authors, yourself and Ms. Milan included, are able to receive justice for the infringement of their hard work.

  31. I’m told she plagiarized two of my books (I’ve seen a couple of screenshots-please feel free to email me if you have more). I wanted to add a huge thank you for the support from readers and my fellow authors about this. You are why I love the writing community.

    I’m angry for all of the authors having to deal with this (or have dealt with it). It’s a horrible feeling to have your hard work plagiarized. Writing/Publishing/Marketing a good book takes incredible effort and authors deserve to have that work protected.

    Seriously, thanks again everyone for all your kind words, suggestions, and advice. <3

  32. I’m sorry this has happened to you. I am a romance ghostwriter (one that started at a penny a word and now makes much more) and never in my life have I plagiarized!

    This hurts and sucks!

    As we are in a season that brings many depression, I understand what emotions can go into a book.

    This woman should have known better and should be held accountable for what she has done.

    Many times, as on Amazon, authors will not put up their photo, because they don’t want readers to make a decision to read a book based on race. I have written many historical romance books in the past. I have written best sellers. There is a chance they would not have sold so well if people saw my face before my words.

    Another reason you may not see a real photo of an author is because they don’t want to get typecasted. Readers will like them in one genre, but may not feel they should be writing in others. Readers get comfortable with one idea and don’t want adjust when that author feels like changing it up.

    That being said, anyone stealing should be stopped.

  33. Well… she gone done it now…
    This woman picked the wrong person to plagiarize. You are known for sticking up for yourself AND other authors. Romance fans are voracious readers. She must live in a dark bubble if she didn’t think readers would NOT notice the similarities.
    Best of luck as you move forward through this.

  34. Last year it was #Cockygate. That was bad enough.

    Cristiane Serruya is bringing us #Copygate.

    Hate that you’re having to deal with this, Courtney, especially with work that you have such a deep and personal connection to. I checked the rates on a traditional peasant mob, but evidently, someone rented out the last group of angry villagers with pitchforks and torches.

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