In a sensational return to newspaper columns this weekend, it has been revealed that Bridget Jones is back as a 51-year-old single mother of two – and that Mr Darcy is dead.
Extracts from the third instalment of writer Helen Fielding’s series, called Mad About The Boy, were published in the Sunday Times Magazine today.
When we last saw the world’s most famous singleton, she was being proposed to by the charming and successful barrister Mark Darcy.
Fast forward 15 years, readers will be shocked to find out (early on) in the latest novel that Bridget is now a widow, looking after two little Darcys.
Still worried about her weight, how much she smokes and whether one more glass of wine would be too many, it is in many ways the same Bridget who has built up an adoring fandom since coming to life in 1995.
Viv Groskop writes that the appeal of Bridget Jones will endure because “as long as she still has the same problems, enough women will identify”.
Heralding the arrival of “chick lit” nearly twenty years ago, Bridget Jones's Diary also started out as a newspaper column.
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, 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 and 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 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 see 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 10 October, as his death will appear in a flashback deep into the book and not be revealed in advance.
Shocked fans used Twitter this morning to lament the death of Mr Darcy, some declaring 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 tweeted: “Noooo! Not Mark Darcy!” and Anne Robinson said: “Mark Darcy is dead. Bridget Jones is a widow!! This is all too much for a lazy Sunday morning.”
Naomi Sharples wrote: “Not sure that I want to read the 3rd Bridget Jones book now!”
And Ashley Elliott simply said: “I really hope this isn't true.”
Additional reporting by PA