Romance novelist Janet Dailey, who went from secretary to best-selling author with millions of copies of her books sold worldwide, found herself in the midst of a scandal in 1997 that could have been a career-ender.

But in her world, the heroine always found a way to overcome dire straits.

In Dailey’s “Night of the Cotillion” (1977), Amanda finds love with Jarod, though he mocks her early on for being “wrapped up in those romantic notions … and the happily-ever-afters.” In “For the Love of God” (1981), Abbie overcomes cruel gossip to win the hand of Seth, the town’s new minister. Similar happy endings were in store for the protagonists of “Valley of the Vapours,” “For Bitter or Worse” and the nearly 100 other books she wrote.

Dailey’s real-life dilemma came when she was accused of plagiarizing the prose of the biggest name in the genre, Nora Roberts. Dailey eventually admitted to the infractions and lost her big-name publisher. But she kept on writing, and many of her fans stuck by her.

“There’s a formula in women’s fiction called: ‘sin, suffer and repent,’ ” said Dailey’s agent, Richard Curtiss. “Well, she sinned, suffered and repented. And then she went on.”

Dailey, 69, died Dec. 14 at her home in Branson, Mo., according to Taney County Coroner Kevin Tweedy. Although he declined to give an exact cause of death, Tweedy said it was “health reasons.”

She wrote about 100 books in her lifetime, beginning with “No Quarter Asked” that was published in 1974 by romance specialty house Harlequin Enterprises. By then, she and her husband, Bill — who she said was the model for the rugged men in her books — had taken early retirement and were traveling the country in a Silver Streak trailer.

“I had always wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t have the vaguest notion of what to write about,” Dailey said in a 1981 Los Angeles Times interview. “Then I started reading romances.”

By the time of the article, the extremely prolific Dailey had more than 50 books out, several of which had hit bestseller lists. In a Washington Post interview, she claimed to be able to write a novel in 16 days.

Dailey wrote several themed series of books, including her “Americana” series of 50 novels.