You know what I think would be perfect in terms of this “Regina getting a love interest by the end of the season” business?
For her to have unrequited feelings for Emma.
Seriously, hear me out, it’s perfect. Swan Queen would officially be canon, but without getting them together “too soon” to be endgame.
I am a huge fan of angst with a “happily ever after.” It makes the pay off so much sweeter when they finally get together. And yes, it would hurt to see more sad and lonely Regina. But let’s face it, if you ship Swan Queen, you have to be at least slightly masochistic, and a little part of you loves the way Lana manages to shatter your heart to pieces week after week.
It would give them the chance to tie up Emma’s story with Neal and moving on, while adding a whole new layer of emotions and drama (imagine if Emma’s parents caught on!) at the same time.