by Anthony Bond)
A popular Mills and Boon author who penned 48 romantic novels has died, it was announced today.
Mary Wibberley, from Manchester, died after a short illness at the age of 79.
Her first novel, Black Niall, was published in 1973, after which she went on to pen dozens of other books, establishing her as a firm favourite with Mills and Boon fans.
She caught the writing bug when she had an article printed in the Manchester Evening News when she was a child.
She dreamt of being an author as a schoolgirl and continuing to write whilst working part-time and bringing up her two children.
After seven manuscript rejections she finally got the letter she had been waiting for when she was 38.
"I remember the whoops of delight when she opened the letter from Mills and Boon," said her daughter Judith King who lives in Worsley, Manchester. "She danced up and down the hall."
Bestseller after bestseller soon followed and Mary created a study in a small attic room.
"Mum was always writing when we were growing up. She would lock herself away at the top of the house and get so lost in creating her stories that she would only realise it was time to stop when it started to go dark and she could barely see the paper. She even completed one book in just nine days."
The home where Mary penned so many novels was later bought by Manchester United Legend Ryan Giggs who demolished all but the sun dial to build his own house on the site.
As well as Mills and Boon novels, Mary also produced a guide for budding romantic fiction authors, To Writers With Love, and continued to encourage others to tell their own stories, especially at the annual Swanwick Writers' Conference which she attended for more than 40 years.
Mary, who was widowed in 1992, was also a great animal lover and was well known for taking in four-legged waifs and strays until more permanent homes could be found for them.
Her funeral will take place tomorrow.