Ripley died of natural causes on Jan. 10 at her Richmond, Va., home, where she had recently moved from Charlottesville, Va., her daughter Elizabeth Lyon Ripley told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The estate of "Gone With the Wind" author Margaret Mitchell handpicked Ripley to pen the eagerly awaited follow-up to Mitchell's Civil War epic.
Although the 1991 novel met with lukewarm reviews from critics, it was embraced by fans and secured the No. 1 spot on The New York Times' best-seller list.
Ripley is survived by two daughters, Elizabeth Ripley and Merrill Ripley Geier, and a granddaughter, all of Richmond. She was separated from her husband, John Graham of Charlottesville.