Paris in an artistic genius. His paintings sell for millions of dollars and everyone wants a piece of him, although not often with the best of intentions. Even though he is an adult, his sister, Julia, is his legal guardian, manager, and pimp. His life is not his own and he is trapped within a drugged prison of Julia’s making as he paints to fill her bank account. She blames Paris for everything, including being born. But Paris cannot put a name to their secrets as Julia has manipulated him so that he has no voice and no one will believe him. Paris sees the world in colors and when the madness threatens to swallow him, he paints the secrets that no one can see. Until Roy.
A chance meeting puts Roy in Paris’ sights. Roy who wears suits that are too small and has no money in his wallet because he has a past based on circumstances. Paris thinks Roy will just be another one nighter like all the rest. But Roy can see Paris, thinks Paris is beautiful, and wants to help him, care for him, love him. Roy can see through the many colors to the truth in what Paris paints. The truth of a horrific family secret and a boy with soft lips that gave Paris his first kiss. The boy whose name Paris cannot remember.
Complementary Colors is a book that many times I have said I am going to read it next. I read a lot of darker books, it seemed like a good fit, and still it stayed on my TBR list. This was the perfect opportunity to get to it.
This is not an easy book. There is an encompassing love story, but there are a lot of darker themes that are intertwined all of the way through that are just as prominent. Paris is an incredibly well drawn character. Each page and each scene uncovers one more layer and takes us one step further into his broken mind. There are glimpses sprinkled throughout the story that will then finally illuminate the nightmare that is Paris’ life.
Paris talks like an artist and, more importantly to his character, sees as an artist. His studio and his paint are the only places he can escape to. Threats and fear keep the past locked inside of him and to keep the demons that invade his memory quiet, he describes the world in a rush of colors and hides his secrets within the brush strokes of his canvas.
There are many characters that are not likable and are not supposed to be likable. Julia controls everything about Paris and he complies because it’s easier than Julia’s threats, which are really twisted promises. Mental illness becomes the central force of the book and it is presented as Julia suffering from one form of mental illness (which is never given a diagnosis in the book) and Paris, who because of severe psychological trauma at a young age was left with a fragmented mind that was constantly trying to cope and adjust.
Paris is a special character that is created loving by Wilder with words and colors. There are some scenes that are a swirl of color and others that are intense and intricate like the precise ticking of a clock. Besides his painting, Paris’ only other escape is sex and he lives for that brief moment where he can soar and feel nothing. Roy was just supposed to fill that role of another warm body, but Roy won’t give up on Paris.
Tears bled out of my eyes. “My confession.” Cold. I was so cold. “Because I couldn’t tell anyone.”
“But you did tell.”
“Later. When it didn’t matter anymore.”
“And you still tell. In every painting you create, you tell the world what happened.”
“No one hears me.”
“I hear you.”
“No one cares.”
“No one believes.”
“I believe you. Every word.”
It’s possible to get lost in Paris’ world of colors and Wilder’s descriptive prose of a broken mind, but I had to pull back from a review perspective for a moment. As for Roy, he falls for Paris immediately and I would have liked to have been given more on his motivation to being so dedicated to Paris so quickly. There is also one area of Roy’s past that needed further explanation for it to fully fit together for me. Also, when Paris is finally being treated by a new doctor, the doctor pushes real hard real fast, which leaves Paris open to injury. After everything Paris has been through and this supposedly finally being the best place for him, I had questions about the treatment that was presented.
Complementary Colors is a book that is most definitely worth a read. But be prepared for darker themes coming from characters with fragmented minds. Wilder takes us with Paris down his own self described rabbit hole to find a man like Roy who is not willing to walk away.
This review is part of our September Reading Challenge Month for TBR Pile Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win this week’s fabulous prize of a loaded iPad Mini sponsored by Dreamspinner Press, as well as our amazing grand prize sponsored by Riptide Publishing. You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on TBR Pile week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more about the awesome prizes!