Qualifying a Romance

What makes a Romance Novel romance?

I'm contemplating comparisons. Here's one thing I love about a romance novel: the Happily Ever After [HEA]. Perhaps you like a little reality check...or maybe you stick with the fantasy of a-okay. Me? I like them intertwined. I like an epilogue with grit but relational longevity. You know what I mean?

Let me tell you something about the series I've read in the past.
Before getting into romance, I devoured Stephen White's [doesn't he look a tiny bit like you expect Rob Winter from Karen Rose's book, Don't Tell to look? I think it's the mustache.] books about a psychologist in Denver who always ended up in some sticky situation solving one murder or another. Heart-pounding thrills, a hottie hero and a compelling secondary cast. At some point in the series... Our hero started having some bumpy issues with the loved one, his wife who suffered from MS.

Shame on me, I don't know what happened to them. I couldn't get past this blip... his second thoughts. And when Sam, a cop and his friend, experienced some infidelity [and he was one of the solid characters: long time marriage, happy family...] well, my fantasy started unraveling. I felt for him, felt for everyone, but I wasn't sure the story was going to satisfy my inner need for the HEA so I stopped reading...

I ask myself, what happened? Is it the masculine influence of the author? Maybe, but probably not.

Let's just say, Stephanie Plum is really getting close! I have to add my disclaimer: I've never read one but I think I'll have to. A steady relationship is something anyway...right? Maybe. But there are 14 Janet Evanovich books! That's a long time for a relationship to muck through. I think. I'm not saying it doesn't happen. And maybe they're happy... I'm not sure I would be.

What do you think? Do you read for the HEA? Do you write a book with the HEA in mind or do your characters dictate?

Me? I want nitty-gritty survivors. I know life isn't all flowers and song, but a true hero or heroine WORK. :D