Harleigh Beck’s 2023 novel Sinister Legacy came highly recommended as the go-to title in horror erotica, a strange subgenre that is not quite dark romance and not quite pure horror. It ventures into the perilous intersection of erotica and horror, weaving a captivating narrative that will leave readers both aroused and unnerved, often at the same time. With deftly crafted prose and a keen understanding of the human psyche, Beck delivers a gripping tale that explores the darkest recesses of desire and fear and leaves readers wanting more.

Sinister Legacy comes with a vast list of trigger warnings, not the least of which are graphic violence and murder, consensual non-consent, dubious consent, drug use, kidnapping, sexual abuse, and suicidal thoughts. This is a book that has sex scenes involving knives, gruesome murders carried out in a host of ways, and all kinds of inappropriate relationships. A full list of trigger warnings is provided at the beginning of the book, but it does little to prepare the reader for how depraved and disturbing this story gets. Be warned: this is not a book for the faint of heart.

The novel introduces us to a complex cast of characters and is told from over a dozen different perspectives, but in the middle of it all is Keira Hill. The daughter of a prolific serial killer whose execution date is fast approaching, Keira is jaded beyond her years and hiding a darkness that reminds her far too much of her father. Her boyfriend, the star quarterback, doesn’t hold her interest, but King, the rich delinquent bad boy does. What starts out on the basis of a dare gets more intense and obsessive until Keira and King are hopelessly tangled up in each other’s complicated lives. They begin to explore their messed up dynamic, bringing each other’s dark sides out to play, but do they actually have feelings for each other or is King just interested in her because she’s Jimmy Hill’s daughter? And is Keira, child of a psychopathic murderer, even capable of love?

While King and Keira’s bizarre relationship is always at the forefront of the novel, the real horror begins when people close to Keira begin turning up dead, all killed in the same way Jimmy Hill killed his victims. Suddenly, Keira’s friends and family are all in danger of being the next victim and nobody knows when the killer will strike next. While Keira may seem like the obvious suspect to many of her peers, when she starts getting cryptic messages from the killer, it becomes apparent that she’s just another pawn in their sick game. But who’s paying homage to Jimmy Hill and continuing his legacy of terror and gore? Is it Liam, Keira’s obsessive boyfriend? Is it Cassie, Keira’s best friend who’s hiding secrets of her own? Or could it be King, arguably the person who knows Keira the best? 

Despite having a rich narrative and fully fleshed-out character, Sinister Legacy does have a few shortcomings, the main one being plot holes. There are a few minor details that seem to change or contradict each other throughout the book, and more than once we see Beck sort of backtracking to fill minor (but fairly obvious) holes in the story. An example of this can be seen in Cassie and Liam’s bizarre relationship where at times she complains that he’s just a dumb jock, and at other times she seems to have a sort of hero worship for him. While this is a minor issue, it does sometimes take the reader out of the narrative a bit and break Beck’s carefully constructed spell.

Sinister Legacy isn’t just a good read for its shock value and ultra-spicy sex scenes. It gives insight into the mind of a person tormented by grief and haunted by the idea that serial killers are born, not made, and allows readers to sink into the depraved world Beck has created while still tugging at their heartstrings with rare moments of vulnerability and tenderness. The book is at times beautiful in its prose, even describing murder in ways that seem almost poetic. Though its use of multiple character POVs may at times make readers’ heads spin, it keeps the book feeling fresh chapter after chapter and weaves a complicated yet compelling narrative that will draw readers into a world where no one is safe and everyone is a suspect. Overall, this book has something for every type of horror fan. It has a classic trope-y slasher, a deranged romance, psychological mind games, a female protagonist haunted by her past, a quirky whodunnit mystery that keeps readers on their toes, and a whole lot of dirty, depraved fun.

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