Violet Vivian Finlay was born on 2 January 1914 in Berkshire, England, UK, the daughter of Alice Kathleen (née Norton) and Sir Campbell Kirkman Finlay. Her father was the owner and director of Burmah Oil Company Ltd., whose Scottish family also owned James Finlay and Company Ltd. The majority of her childhood and youth was spent in Rangoon, Burma (now also known as Myanmar), where her father worked. During her life, she frequently journeyed between India, Singapore, Java and Sumatra.
Although Vivian is well-known by the surname of Stuart, she married four times during her lifetime, and had five children: Gillian Rushton (née Porch), Kim Santow, Jennifer Gooch (née Stuart), and twins Vary and Valerie Stuart.
Following the dissolution of her first marriage, she studied for a time Law in London in the mid 1930s, before decided studied Medicine at the University of London. Later she spent time in Hungary in the capacity of private tutor in English, while she obtained a pathologist qualification at the University of Budapest in 1938. In 1939, she emigrated to Australia with her second husband, a Hungarian Doctor Geza Santow with whom she worked. In 1942, she obtained a diploma in industrial chemistry and laboratory technique at Technical Institute of Newcastle. Having earned an ambulance driver's certificate, she joined the Australian Forces at the Women's Auxiliary Service during World War II. She was attached to the IVth Army, and raised to the rank of sergeant, she was posted to British XIV Army in Rangoon, Burma in October 1945, and was then transferred to Sumatra in December. After the WWII, she returned to England. On 24 October 1958, she married her fourth and last husband, Cyril William Mann, a bank manager.
She was a prolific writer from 1953 to 1986 under diferent pseudonyms: Vivian Stuart, Alex Stuart, Barbara Allen, Fiona Finlay, V. A. Stuart, William Stuart Long and Robyn Stuart. Many of her novels were protagonized by doctors or nurses, and set in Asia, Australia or other places she had visited. Her romance novel, Gay Cavalier published in 1955 as Alex Stuart got her into trouble with her Mills & Boon editors when she featured a secondary story line featuring a Catholic male and Protestant female who chose to marry. This so-called "mixed marriage" touched nerves in the United Kingdom.
In 1960, she was a founder of the Romantic Novelists' Association, along with Denise Robins, Barbara Cartland, and others; she was elected the first Chairman (1961-1963). In 1970, she became the first woman to chair Swanwick Writers' Summer School.
Violet Vivian Finlay Porch Santow Stuart Mann passed away on August 1986 in Yorkshire, at age 72. She continued writing until her death.