It's all about the happy ending. Romance as a genre of fiction is a very uplifting one. Everyone wants to fall in love, live with their loved one and keep that special love their whole lives, don't they? Even men. And that "happy ending" is not really an ending at all. It's the beginning of the rest of their lives. The beginning of many happy years together. We all know the divorce rate is high, but despite that bleak reality, we as humans need to have hope. We need to believe the ideal is possible. And even if a person's life is depressing, for the time they're reading a romance they again hold that hope and belief close to their heart. Romance is about an ideal we all want--unconditional love and acceptance.
This is the reason I don't understand why romance is looked down upon by certain types of people. Mostly I think this happens because they don't understand romance. There are good and bad books in every genre and you can't judge the whole of any genre by the bad books. Look at the top-selling, award-winning books of that type if you want to understand the appeal of it. Some people say romance is formulaic. Guess what, all popular fiction and most movies (especially top-grossing ones) are formulaic. Most of them follow the three act play structure, an ancient method of storytelling. The only difference is, in a romance, the main journey is emotional, the development of a relationship against all odds.
Many movies out today are romances at heart. Not just romantic comedies. But many big name, award-winning movies like Walk the Line and Memoirs of a Geisha have romance and enduring love at their heart. I love discovering movies like this.
In addition, romance is empowering to women. All women deserve to be treated well by the men in our lives. We deserve respect and love. We deserve to have our dreams come true. We deserve our own "happy endings."