TITLE: The Virtue of Sin
GENRE: YA Romance
When her cult leader forces 16-year-old Miriam into marriage with a stranger, she's faced with an impossible decision: renounce her faith and her family or lose her one true love.
The girls never get a choice. This has always been the way in New Jerusalem, for as long as I've been alive and longer. My father chose my mother, a fact he seldom lets her forget. Now that I am sixteen, tonight it is my turn to be chosen. And though the very thought turns my insides liquid, it’s more from anticipation than fear.
My mother perches beside me on one of the low, hand-carved juniper benches the men have dragged from the Chapel out into the Mojave Desert. Tonight—and tonight only—we are allowed outside the high, concrete walls of the city. She holds out a plate piled with sticky rice, some slices of roast lamb, and a crumbling chunk of bread.
“You need to eat something.” She raises her voice to be heard above the music booming from big speakers into the open air; the same sound system that in less than an hour will be used to announce my future.
The smell of the charred meat churns my stomach. This is a feast compared to our daily meals, but I push it away.
“Ruth is over by the food station with Leah.” She points through the crowd, toward the fire in the distance. “They look as nervous as you. Perhaps more.”
“I’m not nervous.” My best friends are terrified of what tonight will bring. They don’t know who will choose them. But I have no reason to share their fear.
Still, my stomach lurches again as I turn away from my mother’s finger, toward the cave opening in the steep red rocks to our right. I’ve never been inside. Like most of our rituals, the men are free to attend, while the girls go only once, on their wedding night.