1. SEXUAL TENSION
This might be the most important thing in the world of romance lit. If it's missing, your book isn't worth reading. Without it your characters are just two people who just so happen to be in the same story. Your protagonists need to be drawn together. They need to want each other. Desire. Lust. Crave. Want. Need. Heat. Tension. Electricity. Fire. Heart Racing. Sex Clenching. That's what makes a good romance.
2. A MAN WORTH WANTING
Whether he's dominant or sweet. Funny or serious. Arrogant or loving. Closed off or open. Thoughtful or seemingly uninvested. Man whore or player. No matter how you describe him; weaknesses and strengths, your readers have to want him, want to love him, just as much as your female protagonist. He's got to have flaws enough to make him real and perfect enough to make you want him.
3. A WOMAN WE WANT TO EMULATE
The thing about the female protagonist is her ability to walk the fine line between being the woman we're all jealous of and the woman we want to be like. She has the attributes we all wish we had; independence, grace, kindness, beauty, elegance... it's vital that we don't hate her; so she can't be too perfect.
4. DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA
There has to be problems, just like life, there is always about a million problems that just happen to get in between our two favourite characters. Without all those problems and emotional turmoil the reader wouldn't feel half as delighted when it all comes to the crunch. Love is always at its best when it's beaten something; a challenge or painful experience.
In a word readers need love. No matter how awesome your characters are or how tantalising your sex scenes, your sexual tension could be off the charts and you might have drama in abundance but if your characters don't fall in love, you've completely missed the point. They need to fall in love realistically but violently. Their love has to be deep and meaningful; it has to be eternal. The love in novels is a love with the longest longevity; nothing is more eternal than the written word.
What do you think? What things do you think are important when writing romance?