Every now and then some one likes to step into the romance genre and declare that they will be the one to change the rules, or "go beyond the artificial boundaries" and write a romance without a Happily Ever After (HEA) or a Happy For Now (HFN).
DON'T. JUST DON'T.
You aren't being literary or expanding people's interests. We who work in the romance field, who read the books and write the stories know why. We know romance is a billion dollar industry. And that's very enticing. You might think, "Hey. I'd like a piece of that. Why should those people get all that money?" So you want to be different. You figure you'll upset the applecart of HEA and break the main characters up. Maybe have them cheat, or even have one of them die, leaving the remaining main character miserable and alone.
If the main characters don't end up together and in love, it's not a romance. Plain and simple. It isn't enough to say you did it because romance needs to change it up; that you don't like when the couple ends up together or that HEA is merely a trope and why read a story if you know how it ends.
Look. Happily Ever After isn't a trope. It's why we read romance. When we read a mystery, we know it's going to be solved at the end. It's the journey we read for; to see how the detective put the clues together and came up with the murderer.
Same with romance. We read romance for the journey of the main characters in love; to share in their pain and growth as the story unfolds. We feel for their struggles and cheer when they reach and conquer the height of the mountain. We want them to face almost insurmountable hurdles only to somehow, when all seems lost, figure it out and find love. We want a bit of escape from reality. None of the aforementioned reasons makes romance less of a genre than mystery or horror or fantasy.
Romance has always suffered the sneers and behind the hand snickers from those who think they are smarter, and too intelligent to read the "mommy porn." Most likely it's because it is an industry dominated by women, and therefore by it's nature, rendered second-class.
Except we aren't. Romance readers and writers are smart, savvy and aware. We are at the forefront of political activism and are quicker to see industry trends.
So when people denigrate romance and role their eyes, I don't argue with them. I let them speak, knowing that they don't know what the hell they're talking about. It's all good.
Just stay in your own genre, and leave the loving to us. Because there's nothing wrong with falling in love, and being happy.