plagiarism Have you ever had your home broken into? Even if no one is hurt and nothing is damaged, that feeling of violation remains. What if someone copies your work, puts her name on it and turns it in as her own? Pretty outrageous, huh? Ever since an observant author notified us last week that another romance site called Ramblings on Romance (a new blog, NOT to be confused with the blog of the same name authored by the lovely Kristie(J), who is innocent in all this) has rather blatantly copied material from All About Romance, our feelings have run the gamut from anger to pity to disgust over having been ripped off.

The author of this blog is a plagiarist. She claims to read and review romance novels, but many of her “reviews” are actually excerpts from reviews here at AAR – copied without our permission and without attribution to the authors or the site. This plagiarism was brought to our attention by an author who saw these reviews on the blog and recognized them as reviews she had read at AAR. When she notified me of this last week, I checked the blog against our reviews and found that almost every review on that blog was ours.

I decided to give Bonnie Blumel, the reported owner of the blog who styles herself “Queen of Romance”, a chance to explain herself. So, I sent her an email stating among other things that, “Having read your entire blog, it is readily apparent that the vast majority of your content consists of sections…which you have cut and pasted onto your own page.” I went on to point out to the blogger that she had plagiarized our original material and that she needed to remove it from her site right away.

I gave her until Saturday, April 17, 2010 to remove our material from her site. To date, I still have received no direct reply to my email from anyone affiliated with the blog. The blogger’s only response was simply to alter the front page of her own site and to replace our reviews with awkwardly worded summaries of those same reviews. For instance, the blogger’s review of Lady Sophia’s Lover was initially lifted from our 2002 review which you will find here and which appeared like this on Queen of Romance’s blog last week:

Following my email to the blog’s owner, the review of Lady Sophia’s Lover that appears on her blog is no longer primarily a word for word copy as I found there last week, but the review entry which remains on the blog reads like a summary of what Sandy Coleman originally wrote. For instance, the original copied Sandy Coleman’s almost exactly, including Sandy’s statement, “But, despite their differences, all of them share one very important quality – the ability to both touch the heart and stimulate the senses. And boy, can they stimulate the senses.” That has now been changed to, “But, despite their differences, all of them share one very important quality – the ability to both touch the heart and stimulate the senses. And, I truly have my senses stimulated with every book that Lisa Kleypas Writes.” Not exactly a sweeping edit.

Once readers venture beyond the first screen of the blog, they can still find outright copying of All About Romance reviews. For example, the review of Mary Reed McCall’s The Crimson Lady which the blogger passes off as her own contains several paragraphs of language lifted directly from our review of the book. Paragraphs 1-5 of the blog review correspond exactly with paragraphs 2-6 of Jane Jorgenson’s review on AAR, down to the use of italicized bold lettering for emphasis at the same two points Jorgenson emphasized in her original back in 2003. And while the conclusory paragraph does not track Jane’s original word for word, it does paraphrase it closely.

By way of another example, check out the “Queen of Romance”‘s review of Gone Too Far by Suzanne Brockmann. Sandy Coleman originally reviewed this book in 2003. The blog put up what the owner passes off as her own review on March 8, 2010. As one can tell from the way that review appears, paragraphs 1-5 match paragraphs 3-7 of the AAR review word for word. And while parts of the last paragraph appear to be original, our blogger drifted right back to her unauthorized borrowing from Sandy’s hard work when she called the book “easily Ms. Brockmann’s crowning achievement.”

The plagiarism doesn’t even stop with reviews. The “Queen of Romance” copied our sensuality rating system when posting her own ratings guidelines. To be fair, I noticed that after I sent my email last week, the Queen of Romance did at least acknowledge that she’d gotten her sensuality ratings from All About Romance. How nice.

We all put a lot of very hard work into this site and volunteer long hours just to keep the lights on. We do it because we love romance books, and we appreciate the authors and publishers who bring us the books that we love to read. Having someone steal that work feels like a violation to us and we feel quite upset that someone would do this to us without acknowledgement, explanation, or apology. The members of the romance community who share their stories and thoughts with the world get my respect for doing their own work even if I don’t always agree with everything they say, but Bonnie Blumel, the “Queen of Romance”? What she has done inspires no respect from me.

– Lynn Spencer

P.S. Please note that in this blog piece I reference the status of Ramblings on Romance as it appeared last week as well as how it appeared last night when I wrote this piece. The blogger may change her site at any time, but I do have enlargable screen shots of the reviews I discuss here that I can forward by email to interested readers upon request.