One of the persistent complaints of the intelligentsia about romance novels is "They're not real."
My response: "Oh yeah?"
Okay, not the most eloquent defense, and of course, all fiction has its elements of fantasy-unreality, but that lack of realism accusation seems to target one of the inherent romance reader expectations: the happy ending.
Happy endings aren't real? Baloney.
Today is the thirtieth anniversary of my wedding. Yep, I have been married to the same man for thirty years. Since we were both twenty-one. (Our birthdays are so close together, we don't even have separate ones any more. One week doesn't make much of a difference.) He's lost a whole headful of hair. Mine's gone from almost black to a lovely shade of pewter (or maybe silver). But he's still my middle-aged knight in shining armor. (Well, it might need a little armor polish these days--it's seen a lot of use...)
Not all romance writers get a happy ending, but many of us do. Some of us have to try more than once. I lucked out with my guy--but then, as I've told my children, the very best relationships are with those you're friends with first, then realize there's an extra spark. One reason why I love those "best friend" romances so much.
I personally think that a person is more likely to find a happy ending if they believe those happy endings are possible. If you're always waiting for the other shoe to drop, isn't it going to happen, sooner or later? Romances are about that belief, that possibility, that love is out there, and that it can last forever. Or at least for as long as we've got.
My fella is good at the romantic stuff, and he's the kind of guy who says "Gail, if you like both dresses, you should buy both dresses," but the real reason I love him so much... Years ago, before I ever sold a book, I was sitting at the dining table writing, and he asked what I was working on. I told him it was a new story. He said, "Oh good. I'd noticed you hadn't been writing for a couple of months, and I was starting to worry about you."
I'm hanging onto this guy for another thirty years. And then some.