Question: What are the three most important elements in a romance
Answer: Emotion, Emotion, and...More Emotion.
"Show me emotion on every page," my friend Shelly Thacker often encourages. Emotion is an important element in every genre, even in non-fiction, but in romance, spilling emotions out on the page is central.
Sure, we can write "She was hurt by his words" or "I was ripped up in guilt." This works at times. But as writers, we are called to the higher plane of creation--SHOW, don't tell. I have a heck of a time with that, especially when trying to convey emotion which bubbles up from the rich inner world of character and makes itself known in behavior, speech, and physical appearance. It's not so much the emotion we writers describe as it is what that emotion looks like when it finally expresses itself in a person's body language, speech and reactions.
I've already admitted I'm not the greatest at this, so I'll share two sources that I use on a regular basis to help me show the emotions.
Ann Hood wrote Creating Character Emotions (Story Press Books) in 1998, and it still rings true. She offers one chapter on each of the major emotions and gives plenty of bad examples and good examples so that you can really get the feel (pun intended) of the emotion.
Another good source is The Romance Writers' Phrase Book (Jean Kent & Candace Shelton, Perigree Books, 1984) which is literally a list of over 3,000 phrases and taglines organized by topic. Along with emotions, the topics include physical characteristics, facial expression, humor, voices and much more.
Tell your readers about the emotion and they'll tag along; SHOW your readers the emotion and they'll be turning pages faster that ice cream melting in a hot oven.
Go thou forth, Mighty Writers...and Emote!