On a biological level nothing is more critical than the union of two individuals and subsequent rearing of offspring. On a personal level the experience of lust, love, affection, longing, regret – few emotions are more powerful than the ones elicited by romantic potential. One might say that all of life's complexities stem from the drive to seek out the pleasure of companionship, no matter how prolonged or fleeting.
I enjoy simple romances which focus on characters discovering themselves and each other on the course toward romantic fulfillment. Desire can but doesn't have to be a critical aspect. I have read stories that touched me with their intensity with very little lust and some with a good deal. Both, when done well, can be stunningly beautiful.
There's another type of romance I'd like to acknowledge here. It can live in any type of tale involving two characters who develop an attachment, but differs from more traditional love stories in its treatment of the circumstances surrounding the lovers. The stories I'm referring to are those that draw attention to the fact that the circumstances, more even than the couple, are the source of the romance. An example of this type of story is The Hunger Games trilogy. At the outset the reader does not doubt that, had there been no Hunger Game for Katniss or her sister, our heroine would have ended up with Gale. Although Peeta has harboured affection for her before them it's the Games that make them a couple, the unique circumstances ultimately leading to the two falling in love.
It's very reasonable to say that Peeta and Katniss have no choice in this development since no other person can relate to what they've been through, their emotions manipulated by the people and environments around them. This fact doesn't even particularly matter so long as they are happy together. The importance of circumstance is often overlooked in romances so I appreciate stories that draw attention to what is really the most critical aspect of relationships. You are far more likely to end up with someone who is familiar to you, similar background, ethnicity, physical location and upbringing, than not because it's easier to understand someone who shares these aspects. Yes, perhaps it's not very romantic but it is realistic.
I commend stories that can weave good characters, intriguing plot, and realism since it is no easy task. Those that achieve it are worthy of recognition as truly great writers.
Above image is of a man's hand exchanging a flower with a woman's courtesy of Faylinn