Novelist Maureen Lee has died at the age of 88.
Orion, which has published Lee since 1994, said it was "greatly saddened" by the news, confirming she passed away on 31st December at home in Colchester, surrounded by her family.
Lee was a regular Sunday Times bestseller, as well as winning the Romantic Novelists' Association award in 2000 with her book Dancing in the Dark. She wrote short stories first before going on to pen 24 novels, starting with Lila in 1983. She went on to write the Pearl Street series in the mid '90s. Most of her titles were historical sagas set in and around her home city of Liverpool.
She sold 1.7 million books for £8.1m through Nielsen BookScan's UK Total Consumer Market, which records sales since 1998 only, with her bestseller The September Girls, at 127,317 copies sold in paperback. Her work continued to find new readers with reissues, even after she stopped writing, most recently with Goodbye Liverpool and After the War is Over.
Juliet Ewers, associate publisher at Orion, said: "Maureen Lee was much loved by everyone at Orion – her books were wonderful, she truly was the queen of saga writing – but almost more than that, she was a tremendous personality. We will all miss her greatly."
Dave Lee, one of the late author's three sons, said in tribute she was "a very kind person" as well as "very modest" about her publishing success. He told the PA news agency: "You'd not know she was a successful novelist if you met her. She didn't really talk about her achievements. Our lives will now be emptier and we are missing the unconditional love she gave us."