It was mentioned several times at the RWA National Conference and in several articles written in the weeks that followed - Romance novels aren't just about sex. The perception is changing and the old term “smut” books isn’t used like it once was.
But the majority of romance novels contain several scenes where the heroine and hero have sex or make love.
I just finished the first draft of my third book, “Emotional Warfare.” It wasn’t until the twelfth chapter, out of an anticipated fifteen, that I realized not only had my hero and heroine not had sex, they weren’t going to by the end of the book. There wasn’t going to be an opportunity, and it didn’t suit their personalities to force an opportunity. Oh, there’s plenty of sexual tension, but they don't lose complete control or give in to their desire for each other. At the end you know they will, but it will all be in your imagination.
Technically, I know the answer is yes, it can still be a good romance novel without the love scene. But what do you think? Does it matter to you if the hero and heroine don’t make love? Does the story lose something for you if they don’t consummate their relationship?