I'm teaching Persuasion right now in my Intro to Fiction class. When the students were in small groups Wednesday, I overheard two male students talking about how surprised they were that there was more to it than romance. "There's more meat on it," one said. I consider this a success, that I have taken a book that students expected to be fluff and shown them the depth and complexity.
To be fair, the romance in Persuasion is complicated. Austen emphasizes the depth and complexity of the emotions experienced by Anne and somewhat shows those of Captain Wentworth. I don't try to de-emphasize the romance, but I spend more class time on other aspects besides the romance plot, like ways of dealing with suffering, models of parenting, tensions arising because of class or rank, and Austen's style. I try to give the students something to chew on.