A gay romance author who says she has sold almost half a million books has been exposed as a plagiarist.
Laura Harner’s Coming Home Texas is an almost word-for-word copy of My Kind Of Trouble by Becky McGraw, a New York Times bestselling writer. The only difference is that Harner changed the gender of McGraw’s book, which was a male/female contemporary romance, to a male/male love story.
In My Kind Of Trouble, Cassie Bellamy falls for bad boy Luke Matthews when she returns home to Bowie, Texas.
And in Coming Home Texas, Brandon Masters falls for bad boy Joe Martinez when he returns home to Goldview, Texas.
In the first, McGraw writes: ‘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 10, 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.’
And in the latter, Harner writes: ‘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.’
McGraw was told about Coming Home Texas by a reader who had asked her if she had started writing gay romance under a pen name.
Novelist Jenny Trout provided screenshots and extracts comparing the two books, saying: ‘Harner’s clever trick here was to pick a book that was not M/M [male/male], but M/F contemporary romance. As far as readers go, there isn’t a lot of overlap between the two genres.’
McGraw told The Guardian that Harner’s book was almost a ‘word-for-word, scene-for-scene duplication of my book, except the characters’ names had been changed, and short M/M love scenes had been inserted’.
‘The only scene she didn’t include was the epilogue, which couldn’t be altered to an M/M scene. It involved the heroine in labor and the hero having sympathetic labor pains,’ she added.
In a statement, Harner said she realized she had ‘made mistakes’.
‘I own them, and I will deal with the consequences. In transforming two M/F romance stories into an M/M genre, it appears that I may have crossed the line and violated my own code of ethics,’ she said.
‘For those who know me best, you know that responsibility for my actions begins and ends with me. I will also add there are some personal and professional issues I’ve had to deal with in the last year that have stretched me in ways that haven’t always been good for me. I write about certain concerns related to military service for a reason; however, I am not offering that as an excuse. I just think whenever someone acts so out of character, it’s helpful to ask why.’
Harner added she was ‘working to address concerns raised by two authors who have accused me of plagiarism’.
Harner has published 75 books in seven or eight genres in five years.