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Christian romance novelist sues kindergarten teacher for plagiarism

Things are heating up between a Mormon housewife and a Nevada kindergarten teacher—and yes, there are racy sex scenes involved.


Aja Romano


Posted on Sep 12, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 2:39 pm CDT

A Mormon housewife is suing a kindergarten teacher for plagiarizing and selling her book—with added racy sex scenes.

In August, Christian author Rachel Ann Nunes, who has written 47 books, discovered that an anonymous writer going by the pen name of Sam Taylor Mullens was distributing review copies of a work titled The Auction Deal. The book was almost identical to a Mormon romance book Nunes had published in 1998 called A Bid For Love—except Mullens had also allegedly topped off her version with steamy sex scenes that were never in the original version.

The outraged Nunes is now crowdfunding a lawsuit against the woman, whose real name has been revealed as Tiffanie Rushton, a Nevada kindergarten teacher. 

Nunes blogged about the wave of support she received from reviewers who read the book and recognized similarities. After Nunes tried to contact Rushton directly about the book, Rushton, as Mullens, first refused to allow Nunes to have a copy of the book for comparison. Then, when reviewers offered Nunes their review copies, Rushton wrote Nunes as herself and claimed that she was actually a friend of the (fictional) Mullens, who had mysteriously received a copy of Nunes’s work from “a man in our writing group,” and that she and the (fictional) Mullens had no idea that the work was still under copyright, or that it was by Nunes, a well-established author.

“I feel at fault for not giving her more guidance,” Rushton wrote, about her own alter-ego. Then she blamed Nunes for harassing the fake writer out of the indie writing community.

Due to the manner in which you went about investigating the Advance Reader Copy of The Auction Deal has caused Sam to withdraw from the Indie Author Community, which is a shame. There will be a significant loss without her…. Please do not discredit this wonderful woman in a small Indie Publishing community. They need her.

When Rushton’s attempt to portray Mullens as an innocent victim backfired, Rushton tried again to create a new story.

This time, writing as Mullens, she told a reviewer that she was actually Nunes’s niece, and that she had given Nunes the idea for the book years ago. The reviewer forwarded Rushton’s email to Nunes, who confirmed that she and Rushton are not related.

On her blog, Nunes posted side-by-side comparisons of sections of each work: 

Chapter two, first paragraph, A Bid For Love:

The dark brown curls were everywhere. They were a curse, and had been for twenty-eight of Cassi’s twenty-nine years. They puffed out from her scalp and plunged halfway down her back as if they had lives of their own, helplessly tangled and twisted together. The bathroom lights above the double sink reflected from the brown tresses, bringing out the subtle gold highlights.

Chapter two, first paragraph, The Auction Deal:

Dark brunette curls were everywhere. They were a curse, and had been for the thirty-one years of my life. They puffed out from my scalp and plunged halfway down my back. They helplessly tangled and twisted together. The bathroom lights above the sink reflected the brown tresses.

Nunes’s lawsuit notes that in addition to the word-for-word plagiarism, Rushton added “several graphic scenes.” Although the book is no longer available online, you can see traces of the changes Rushton made to Nunes’s conservative LDS book on her Pinterest. A board called “The Auction” not only includes racy depictions of her envisioned characters, but numerous quotes related to Buddhism. It’s not clear what, if any, presence Buddhism had in the plagiarized story itself.

Screengrab via Pinterest

Rushton, as Mullens, had reportedly been planning a book tour when her plagiarism was revealed. It has since been canceled. Instead of accolades, the book’s Goodreads page is full of angry Goodread users calling out its author’s plagiarism.

Nunes, meanwhile, has raised almost $6,000 for the legal fund to sue Rushton. She is currently making copies of A Bid For Love available for free on Amazon Kindle.

Ironically, one of the “Buddhist” quotes on Mullens’ pinboard for her now-defunct remix reads, “Three things cannot be long hidden: The sun, the moon, and the truth.”

You don’t say.

Photo Dan Queiroz/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Sep 12, 2014, 4:40 pm CDT