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LONDON (Reuters) - Fans of fictional everywoman Bridget Jones have taken to social media to express their outrage that novelist Helen Fielding has killed off love interest Mark Darcy in her latest novel.
In "Bridget Jones: Mad about The Boy", the 30-something London singleton obsessed with her romantic life, weight and cigarette consumption who captured the zeitgeist of the 1990s, has become a 50-something widowed mother of two with a toy-boy.
"SPOILER ALERT:Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo! New Bridget Jones book is not what we were expecting," tweeted Amanda @mosschop2000 on Tuesday.
Fielding's original novel "Bridget Jones's Diary" came out in 1996, and "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" followed in 1999. The two novels sold more than 15 million copies worldwide.
The character's bumbling appeal carried over into two films starring Renée Zellweger as Bridget, alongside Hugh Grant and Colin Firth as Mark Darcy, and spawned a genre of revelatory columns, books, television shows and other movies.
The Darcy figure in Fielding's novels takes his name from the aloof hero of "Pride and Prejudice" created by early 19th century English novelist Jane Austen.
That role was played by Firth in a BBC television adaptation that forged his image as a heartthrob with a scene of him emerging from a pond in a white shirt plastered to his chest.
Some fans refused to accept that Fielding could kill off her Darcy, a brooding human rights lawyer who rescues Bridget from a Thai prison in the second film.
"Darcy hasn't died. Call me stubborn, fine, but I refuse to accept the new book as 'Bridget Jones' canon," tweeted Charlotte Runcie@charlotteruncie.
Twitter feeds of women's lifestyle magazines and entertainment websites lit up with gossip, advice and the v. bad quantities of cigarettes and chardonnay needed to digest the news.
Grazia's Grazia_Live Twitter feed produced a round-up of the best Mr. Darcy moments and Harper's Bazaar UK offered advice to the fictional character on how to use social media for dating and introducing her new boyfriend to her children.
"DON'T update your Facebook status to say you're widowed. Just don't. It's social media gone mad," the magazine advises.
"DO agree to be set up by friends. Friends of friends are safe territory. Especially if they wear woolly jumpers made by their mums and have the same name as a Jane Austen hero."
Bridget Jones, who originally sprang from Fielding's newspaper column in the 1990s, also grapples in the new book with the cringe-making challenges of social media.
Jones laments drunken texting, skinny jeans and the fact she has no Twitter followers.
"Do not text when drunk," Jones says in an excerpt from the new novel released on Twitter and Facebook in May. "A text is gone at the brush of a fingertip, like a nuclear bomb or Exocet missile."
"Mad about The Boy" is due out in Oct and will also be published as an e-book and audiobook, according to Jonathan Cape, a part of the Random House publishing company.
Reporting by Paul Casciato; Editing by Ruth Pitchford