While my stories have a strong romantic element (guys, watch The Terminator before you roll your eyes), technically I write Women's Fiction, not Romance. Why? Because I like the freedom Women's Fiction offers.
With Inspirational Romance, the hero and heroine must meet in the opening scene or thereabout. They must have conflict. Eventually, they must fall in love, and at the end, either have an engagement or a wedding.
I like to mess with characters' lives, so that simply won't work for me.
On page 102 of Plot & Structure, James Scott Bell tells us there are three types of endings. In essence, the main character either wins, loses or the ending is open (he calls it ambiguous.) I can't find the source, but I thought Mr. Bell also said something along the lines that the main character can:
a) win the goal and gain moral ground
b) lose the goal but gain moral ground
c) lose the goal and lose moral grain
d) lose the goal but gain moral ground
If he didn't, it sounds good. And it's what I like about Women's Fiction. I have all those options at my disposal. In one of my stories, the couple doesn't end up together, but there's a possibility they may someday (ambiguous). In other, I made a surprising twist that I couldn't have achieved with the technical requirements of Romance. In another, the couple is together, but it's unclear for how long. And the reader is okay with those given the context of the story.
There isn't anything wrong with Romance. Considering the times we live in, it's great to get lost in a novel that promises a happy ending. But as a writer, I love to explore the possibilities--while still ending my stories on a touching note.