AS a 32-year-old singleton, Bridget Jones's greatest fear was of dying "fat and alone, and [being] found three weeks later half-eaten by Alsatians".
As a 51-year-old widowed mum-of-two, now it seems more likely for the iconic diarist to be found savaged by book critics instead.
Seventeen years after first hitting book shelves, and nine since Renée Zellweger last squeezed into her granny pants to play the part on the big screen, Bridget Jones has returned in Mad About the Boy.
"I knew there would be a reaction, but I did not expect to be watching BBC News and see the Syrian crisis and then the next item, 'Mark Darcy is dead!'" says Fielding, a 55-year-old divorced mum-of-two.
"When I wrote the first book, I was in my 30s, and so were many of the readers. So now they're older, and things happen in life.
"There's no one who gets through life without hard things happening or losing people," she adds, "and this is a book about a woman like many women, finding herself single in life and getting back out there in the dating world where the landscape has completely changed."
Just like Bridget in the new book, Widow.ie founder Colette Byrne lost her husband five years ago, and says there's no reason why chick lit shouldn't address the issue of widowhood.
"Many recently bereaved widows may find Mad About the Boy a difficult read," she says, "and the character of Bridget should not be seen as representative of every young widow.
"However, I think the fact that Helen Fielding has categorised Bridget as a widow challenges many of the stereotypical views of widowhood.
"Many people imagine a widow to be in her late 70s and are shocked to learn otherwise," adds Colette. "In Ireland, the sad reality is that 20pc of lone mothers and 40pc of lone fathers are widowed, so why not represent widowhood in pop culture?"
While in the first book Bridget vowed not to fall for alcoholics, workaholics, "emotional f***wits" and perverts, almost two decades on her priorities are likely to have changed, says psychotherapist Trish Murphy (trishmurphy-psychotherapy.com).
"What women are looking for in a man at 32 and at 51 is usually quite different," she says. "In their 30s, most women are looking for a potential father for their children, so they're looking for somebody who is financially secure, whereas women in their 50s are not particularly looking for that."
Irish fans will have to read on to find out whether Bridget finds love again with 30-year-old Roxby McDuff, whom she meets on Twitter, but Trish is sceptical: "Very often, when women in their 50s go online [looking for love], they get younger men answering their messages, or they're more attracted to younger men.
"It does present a difficulty because [while] they may have very good sex, part of them knows it's going nowhere.
"If they're looking for a longer-term relationship, they need to go for men their own age – the problem is that men their own age go for much younger women."
But it seems it's Mr Darcy himself who's most heartbroken by this turn of events, Fielding reveals: "One of the weirdest conversations I've ever had was when I called Colin [Firth who played the character in the films] to tell him.
"It was almost as if I was telling him that someone had actually died. We were both really upset. But then we both started laughing, as nobody had actually died.
"The thing is that Bridget had to be single," she adds. "Mark would never have left her because he's too much of a gentleman."