Woot! I just got Pamela Regis's A Natural History of the Romance Novel in the post today.
I've been meaning to read this forever (well, since the Bindel Fiasco) and the first 16 pages have been very instructive.
The book is a refutation of the claim that "the form of the romance novel genre - its ending in marriage - extinguishes the heroine and binds the reader." (11)
Regis argues that it's not in the HEA (or 'the betrothal') that the true meaning of a romance novel is found, but the 'barrier' and the 'point of ritual death.' The freedom our heroine achieves in overcoming these elements is what we the readers relate to. It is the heroine's freedom to choose the hero that we celebrate at the end of a novel.
That's me at page sixteen. I remain to be convinced, sitting somewhere in the middle of Bindel and Regis in this great never-to-end debate. Behold: