Now, I'm not a huge romance reader. I've read some Regencies, a few paranormal romances, and lately a friend's BDSM erotica series. I've never really been into the bodice rippers from Harlequin, though I've read a few of those as well. Most of the romances I've read, as I said in the beginning, are Regency era romances. They have a plot, interesting characters, and aren't all about the sex. In fact, in most Regencies that I've read sex doesn't even come into it.
But a lot of people read romances. The dashing hero and the fair heroine must overcome some kind of obstacle to their love. Sometimes there's sex. Sometimes there's not. Sometimes the heroine doesn't end up with the man she originally wanted, though she's no less in love with the second man she gets. In arranged marriage stories, she usually falls in love eventually with her husband. There are so many tropes that show up in romance stories, but that's half the fun of reading them.
There are a lot of fantasy and science fiction books out there with an element of romance in them. I've read a lot of those. A romantic interest in stories adds depth to the character and can lead to some interesting problems as you go through the story.
One of the consistent things about romance novels is the HEA - Happily Ever After. You have to resolve the issues and bring your hero and heroine together in the end so they can ride off into the sunset or whatever you have them doing. But you have to have the HEA or it's not a romance novel.
What are your favorite romance novels? Who are your favorite authors?