You'd better sit down for this news out of England: Mr. Darcy is dead.
Fans of Helen Fielding's bestselling Bridget Jones novels, which spawned two films with Renée Zellweger, know we mean Mark Darcy -- the handsome lawyer, played on screen by Colin Firth, who was set to marry Bridget at the end of "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" back in 2000.
Fielding's follow-up, "Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy," to be published in the United States on Oct. 15, was excerpted this weekend in the Sunday Times of London. British readers were shocked to learn that when the novel opens Bridget is a 51-year-old widow with two children, Darcy having been killed five years earlier. (She has also picked up a new, much younger boyfriend, and obsessively counts her Twitter followers.) Fans have taken to Twitter -- see #BridgetJones and #MarkDarcy -- to express their shock and to mourn.
Claire Lyman (@purpleclaire) tweeted: "I don't want to live in a world where Mark Darcy and Bridget Jones aren't living happily ever after. Too far, Helen Fielding. Too far."
Another Twitter fan, Sam Baker (@sambaker), hopefully asked, "RIP Mark Darcy. But we can still get Colin Firth for the flashbacks, right?"
"Bridget Jones' Diary," the fictional journal entries of a young single Londoner who drinks and smokes too much and records her fluctuating weight, was published in 1996. Fielding based the plot in part on Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice."