I write erotica and erotic romance. With each genre, there is a slightly different expectation of the storyline, the graphicness of sexual content, and the ending.
With erotic romance, in contrast to romance, there is a decision to make when it comes time to end the story. There are options: happily ever after OR happy for now OR there is always the option of not going with a set HEA or HFN, but a sense of freedom and hope for the character. With romance, of course, you expect a HEA ending. That's it ... and if it isn't there, heaven help you when readers are done with you. ; )
For the most part, even though I write erotic romance rather than romance, I tend to stick with the HEA or HFN ending, even though I do sometimes wonder. What really happens next?
A friend of mine who was in a writer's group with me used to tease me, in a good natured friendly way, about reading romances. (His girlfriend read them too ... sometimes with him). And being a writer, he decided to imagine what would happen next, and he wrote a short story to follow the end of a romance novel. Basically, it took place twenty years after the end of a contemporary romance, where now the characters had sent their eldest off to college (because several romances involve a pregnancy), they had both gained weight, the husband had taken to watching TV and hanging with the guys, and the wife had taken to her own activities, inlcuding an affair to feel that spark of romance, of feeling wanted, again ... and the couple had grown apart.
Basically ... it showed a harsh reality that can happen without both parties continuing to keep the romance, the love, and the passion going.
I have had the accusation levels at me that reading romances and erotic romances, and writing erotica and erotic romances, is escapism. And you know what - it is! I can let myself and all my problems drift away temporarily when I emerse myself in the world the author has created, or the world I am creating. Which we sometimes need! But at the same time ... they give me a sense of what I need to do to keep my life from becoming that Next Chapter story my friend wrote.
I want my own HEA/HFN ending. And to that end, romances can show us to be open to gestures of romances, to communicate (because lack of it is often the issue in romances) and to do what is needed to keep the love from turning to a sense of purely contentness. Love takes WORK!
What worries me about romances ... is simply that some readers fall into the world the author has created and they loose touch with reality. That romances are fiction - reality, and love, takes work! Love isn't as condensed of a process that we often portray in our stories ... limited by word and page count. It isn't constant flowers, candy, and romanctic gestures. And I worry that some readers fall into the Cinderella fantasy that Prince Charming will sweep them off of their feet and everything will be perfect forever and ever. Love just doesn't work that way.
So while I work hard to stay true to my characters, and to give them a HEA/HFN, I also work to make sure I am keeping the romantic gestures realistic. And I don't write about princes and billionaires. I keep my characters as everyday people. (With one exception, and then the ending wasn't a normal HEA/HFN ending.) Yes there is romance, but gestures are within reason, within the ability of most readers.
I say bring on the romances! Erotic romances! Let us choose to read them, if we wish. Let us choose to write them HOW we wish. But at the end of the story, when the book has been closed, remember ... it is just a book. Take from it ideas to keep the fires burning at home, or to let yourself be open to finding love, but don't use them as a playbook. If I do this, then this will happen. Love just doesn't work that way ...
... but happily ever after is possible. It just takes work.
That's my 2cents on the topic anyways. Who knows, I could be wrong. Been known to happen. : )