As a would-be romance writer, I hear the term "bodice-ripper" used a lot. Usually in the derogatory sense.
It annoys me, to be honest, because while there are some really awful books and writers out there who deserve the tarring of a cliched-hack brush, the majority of romance books which I've read have been smart, funny and interesting. Yes, we have the mandatory happily-ever-after ending. But I like happy endings. I hate going through a ton and a half of horrible stuff with a character only to have it bury him or her. (Picture an irritated look aimed at Ron Moore.)
Unhappy/realistic endings are good, too, sometimes. The happy ending should always be justified by the story. If you have to resurrect your character from the dead (cough, cough, Marvel, cough) then you've pushed it too far.
I've been grabbing various titles at random from the romance paperback section of our local library and one of this week's selections was Romancing the Pirate by Michelle Beattie, a historical romance. I've been enjoying it. Not taking the history too seriously but it's got a good Pirates of the Carribbean adventure feeling along with a love story. Good combination.
But the hero actually ripped the heroine's bodice during their first sex scene. I had to pause, go back, and re-read the line to make sure I'd got it right.
I've probably read over 200 romance titles at this point. This is the very first time I have seen an actual ripped bodice.
I still like the book though. And one in 200, I'll take those odds.