Hankies at the ready: Bridget Jones fans set for shock as plot of new book revealed
Spoiler alert for Bridget Jones fans and tissues at the ready - Mark Darcy is dead and the world's most famous singleton has become a widow.
The shock revelation came as extracts of writer Helen Fielding's latest Bridget Jones's Diary, Mad About The Boy, were published in the Sunday Times Magazine.
Fifteen years after the last novel in the saga, it turns out unlucky-in-love Bridget married Darcy and gave him two children - only for Fielding to kill the awkward yet successful barrister off.
Heralding the arrival of "chick lit", Bridget Jones's Diary started life as as a newspaper column in 1995.
Two best-selling novels, with their corresponding Hollywood blockbuster film adaptations featuring Renee Zellweger as Bridget and Colin Firth as Darcy, followed.
Portrayed as a stereotypical 1990s London thirty-something worried about her weight, smoking and alcohol intake, Bridget struck a chord with women of her generation.
The original book was eventually voted by readers as one of the 10 novels that defined the 20th century, side by side with Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell or Anne Frank's own diary.
The modern-day heroine's story - loosely based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice - was centred around love interests Darcy and her cad boss Daniel Cleaver.
After hearing from her last in 1999 with Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, readers will now find Bridget as a 51-year-old widow obsessed with wrinkles.
Fielding, who has always denied that the books are autobiographical, is herself a 55-year-old single mother-of-two who ended her relationship with television executive Kevin Curran in 2009.
Bridget's new adventures as a fifty-something cougar sees her meet new 30-year-old toy boy boyfriend, Roxter, on Twitter, five years after Darcy's death.
But those who want to know what happened to the love of her life will have to wait until about Mad About The Boy is published on October 10, as his death will appear in a flashback deep into the book and not be revealed in advance.
Shocked fans took to Twitter this morning where many lamented the death of Mr Darcy or declared themselves "heartbroken" by the news.
One fan, named only as Louise, wrote: "NOT happy that Mark Darcy is dead in the new Bridget Jones."
Fiona Ufton added: "Noooo! Not Mark Darcy!" and Laura Nicholson wrote: "Mr Darcy is dead... How traumatic for Bridget Jones fans."
Twitter user Anne Robinson added: "Mark Darcy is dead. Bridget Jones is a widow!! This is all too much for a lazy Sunday morning."
Another social networker, Kirstie, wrote: "omgggg just heard to storyline to the new bridget jones book and am heartbroken."
Others suggested they may now avoid reading the third installment of the famed diary altogether.
Naomi Sharples wrote: "Not sure that I want to read the 3rd Bridget Jones book now!"
And Ashley Elliott added simply: "I really hope this isn't true".